In a move to woo French viewers and placate French regulators, Netflix’s France service, which just launched Monday, will feature the eight-part TV series Marseille later next year. Think of it as a House of Cards clone that has been tailored to talk about sleazy French politics, of course, instead of American.
The made-for-France plot: Instead of Francis Underwood and Washington DC, “_Marseille_ focuses on the story of Robert Taro, mayor of the city for 25 years,” says Netflix. “The coming elections have him face the man he chose as his heir, an ambitious youngster aiming high … Marseille stages a fight around revenge, animated by drug lords, politicians, unions and the political players of the city.”
Ironically, the political battles Netflix has had to fight to get into France make those in Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards pale by comparison. Netflix had long, protracted negotiations with the French government, who demanded that Netflix France help fund domestic TV production, just as other France-based broadcasters do. Netflix France also has to kowtow to France’s “Cultural Exception” rules, which are basically designed to keep France’s French language film-and-TV industry by being dominated by English language content.
Netflix’s move into France, plus its sites serving Britain, Canada, Holland and Scandinavia, are part of the company’s efforts to expand from its U.S.-centric base. Currently 75 percent of Netflix’s subscribers live in the United States, a fact that reinforces France’s fears of the company being nothing more than a front for invasive U.S. programming.
Fears notwithstanding, the premiere of Marseilles online will prove that Netflix is succeeding in its plans to penetrate France, no matter what its politicians may say or do. As Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood said on House of Cards, “Democracy is so overrated.”