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More than 3,500 films online for libraries:

Filmwerte operates a special streaming platform with and is now also setting its sights on the American market

Unlimited streaming from a selection of carefully curated European films for just 10 Euros a year? The Potsdam-based company filmwerte has created a film portal with to expand what public libraries can offer. We are the Netflix for library users – with a slightly different programme offer,” says Benoît Calvez, who is responsible for licenses and editing at filmwerte and is now looking after the North American market as the CEO of the American subsidiary More than 800 libraries are now participating in the platform in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium or Luxembourg. So, say you have the annual pass costing 10 Euros to use Berlin’s public libraries (19 Euros in Potsdam), you will then be able to access more than 5,000 films from the comfort of your own home. The Berlin public library association VÖBB was also the first cooperation partner when filmfriend was launched out of Potsdam from 2017.

Hand-picked films of European cinema

filmwerte developed its own video-on-demand system to ensure optimum access for everybody according to their needs. Library users can either log in via an interface with their annual pass data on the website of their library association or access directly via This is then how some film gems can be discovered because the filmfriend team carefully curates all of the films offered on the platform and also prepares accompanying editorial content. There are specialists in the team for every category. filmfriend works with a documentary producer for its section on documentaries, and the kids section is overseen by a former editor from Filmdienst with a focus on children’s film/special children’s film.

The worldwide Pride Month in June saw the homepage recommending hand-picked LGBTIQ+ films on queer cinema, including the French film drama “120 BPM” which posted 99% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and is regarded by this site as one of the ten best LGBTQ+ films of all time. But the selection also includes internationally known dramas such as “Dallas Buyers Club” or “Blue is The Warmest Colour”.

For those who have difficulty deciding on which film to see, there are out of the ordinary categories such as “Latin America Journey”, “Nature on Your Doorstep”, “We Love New York” or “Films about Filming” to help you make some new discoveries. “We don’t license everything and we don’t offer everything – that doesn’t make any sense to us. We put a lot of emphasis on curating the platform and carefully selecting the films. We also respond to suggestions from the libraries and, for example, provide dedicated film categories for planned exhibitions or an anniversary such as the recent one for Sesame Street,” says Benoît Calvez. They currently have more than 200 licensors. “They like to work with us because they know that we take extra care in curating the films and highlighting them editorially on the platform.”

One streaming solution for many platforms

Thanks to its technical white label solution for video streaming, filmwerte is not only operating the filmfriend platform, but also offering the product as a streaming solution for film festivals and municipal cinemas. Cinema Lovers was one such project where cinemas offered new releases directly for home viewing during the pandemic. The cinemas are now open again and many of them are continuing the streaming experience – among other things, to provide their regular customers with a fifth or sixth digital screen. For example, should the latest Tarantino film currently be on release, then one could also offer the director’s previous films. The German Referee Association is also a client of filmwerte and trains its young referees via videos that can be accessed from home.

As a platform, filmwerte is the No. 1 in Germany for libraries. “You could also say that we are accompanying the libraries in their process of digitisation. In the past, many DVDs and Blu-Rays were lent out by libraries, but nowadays everyone is used to streaming and instant access. We have taken over handling this service for the libraries.” filmfriend has since carved itself a nice niche as it has focused on European independent cinema for which there are few alternatives among the other platforms. The company doesn’t see itself in the same league as mega-corporations like Amazon and Netflix, but promotes itself rather as a German company that is pursuing its own concept and streaming offer.

Filmfriend goes America

The success and response in Europe prove them right. Which is why the North American market has now moved into Filmwerte’s sights. And also why Benoît Calvez is conducting the interview for the MediaTech Hub blog from New York. He is currently there on a stopover for a few appointments before heading on to Chicago for the American Library Association Annual Conference – the largest trade fair of its kind in the USA. “We are making rapid progress in Europe and there is a strong demand for European products and films in North America,” Calvez says. Moreover, libraries in the US and Canada are a real institution. Compared to Germany where about 10% have a library card, the figure in North America is 53% – meaning that there’s a real potential there. European licensors can now offer their films on specifically for the North American market and thus generate additional circulation.

The first contact with the American market came about after a delegation with the MediaTech Hub travelled to the USA in March 2023. Participants from the Hub visited incubators, start-ups as well as the local digital scene during the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) in Austin/Texas. Calvez describes the contacts and conversations he made as being so inspiring and convincing that they subsequently decided to locate the American subsidiary in Austin. This is where they will be able to put out their feelers in the city that is now regarded as the next big ecosystem for tech and media after Silicon Valley. Companies such as Tesla and Dell have their headquarters there and the much cheaper rents and the spirit of innovation are attracting lots of start-ups to the Texas metropolis.

“We are also proud of our origins in Potsdam when we’re in the US. We score points with our location in Babelsberg, one of the European centres of excellence for film and media technologies. And we are bringing European content to this market. That means that anyone who would like to work with us in this area should know that we are always on the lookout for good material,” says Calvez in the direction of distributors.