4 International Film Distribution and Licensing Trends to Watch in 2023


Trends drive international film distribution and licensing. Though financiers and industry executives attempt to predict a film's potential success, there are many variables that impact what will grab the public's attention and attract them to theaters—or screens generally. Likewise, distribution and licensing are changing faster than ever before. Here are some evolving trends to keep an eye on this year.

1) Opportunistic Market Growth 

The digitization of the film industry and the subsequent availability of content on multiple paid online applications has introduced a new segment to the distribution market that presents an opportunistic market for growth. If the recent European Film Market (EFM) is any indication, the international market may be returning, despite ongoing challenges. 

According to Variety, the EFM recently reported “record results” of over 11,500 market participants from 132 countries. Constantin Film’s Martin Moszkowicz described this year’s EFM this way: 

“It was a rather busy market, with no single must-have, but much mid-sized product.” 

Moszkowicz also noted that Constantin received around 90 project submissions prior to market, which is significant. 

Film producer Nick Shumaker of Anonymous Content added:

“There’s been more deals happening at the EFM than at Sundance, and we sense a new vibrancy in the international markets.”

2) Evolving Distribution Strategies

Film distribution is an integral part of the film industry. However, the distribution market has undergone dramatic change in recent years. While 2020–2021 saw a period of experimentation with the “day and date” release strategy, which posed a potential threat to the exclusivity of theatrical releases, in 2022, Amazon and Netflix emerged as potential solutions to the industry’s challenges. 

According to Medium, 2023 will further solidify the role that major streamers intend to play. Will Amazon stand behind its commitment to invest a billion dollars a year for movies that would start on the big screen? Will Netflix follow suit? 

The current landscape will likely require even more diversity in the content being produced and distributed. As David Zaslav, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, recently told investors: 

“Last year was a year of restructuring; 2023 will be a year of building. In today’s increasingly dynamic and crowded media environment, the best hand has great storytelling IP, brilliant creatives, a full slate of production and distribution capabilities and broad global reach that stretches across premium, pay TV, the free-to-air, theatrical streaming, licensing and gaming – the entirety of the ecosystem.”

3) Rise of Mobile Viewing 

According to recent research conducted by The Business Research Company, mobile video viewing (not surprisingly) has risen dramatically in the past few years and looks poised to become even more prevalent during the coming year. This growth is driven primarily by the rise in internet saturation and smartphone usage. 

According to a 2020 Hootsuite study, 4.18 billion people (over 50 percent of the world’s population) utilize mobile internet, and 57 percent of global video is viewed on mobile devices. American adults spend an average of 30 minutes a day watching videos on their phones. This rapid increase in mobile video consumption is expected to drive the film and video market.

4) AVOD and Live Viewing 

In 2022, more consumers were tuning into FAST, AVOD, and virtual multi-video channel personal distributors (vMPVD, or “virtual TV services”). An increase in live events, such as the Olympics, the midterm elections, and the return of the NFL and the World Cup, encouraged viewers to choose live programming, and this trend is expected to continue in 2023.

According to a Parrot Analytics report, two critical characteristics are driving live usage: sports and simplicity:

  • Sports. The biggest sports in the US — NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, and niche events like UFC and WWE – are primarily viewed live. ESPN+, Hulu, Paramount+, and Peacock are all simulcasting games they own the rights to in order to meet consumer expectations and be the sole operator of the live event.

  • Simplicity. Choice paralysis causes consumers to take an average of eight minutes to look for a title. This is the premise behind Hick’s Law – the more content to choose from, the more time it takes to choose, and the more overwhelming and frustrated a person becomes. Live programming allows viewers to watch something already in progress and avoid making a difficult choice.

The film industry is rapidly changing. Media companies must be innovative, flexible, and data-driven to succeed in this market, adapting to new technologies and emerging trends. With a growing global audience and an ever-evolving distribution landscape, the future of international film distribution and licensing looks bright and full of opportunities.

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