How Europe’s Top TV Fiction Executives Navigate the Platform-Driven Drama Boom | New

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It’s a busy week on the conference and market circuit for European theater professionals as Mipcom holds its first physical edition in two years in Cannes (October 11-14), followed by the MIA film and television market. (October 14-17) in Rome.

Alongside Mipcom, the Canneseries TV series festival (October 8-14) is also in full swing, presenting around 20 new independent drama series such as the black comedy by Finnish director Teemu Nikki. Sir8, who play in competition, at big budget international series like Around the world in 80 days, Sissi and the last season of Gomorrah out of competition.

These events come at a pivotal time for drama production in Europe, as global US platforms increase their presence while regional and domestic streamers and niche broadcasters also elevate their game.

WarnerMedia’s HBO Max will be the last US streamer to launch in a first round of European territories on October 26, followed by NBCUniversal’s Peacock and ViacomCBS Networks International’s Paramount + in 2022.

The bulk of newcomer offerings will be new content and library titles produced in the United States. However, European originals will also be a key feature, due to a combination of public demand and EU-wide legislation requiring streamers to invest a percentage of their turnover in local productions. The stipulations vary territory by territory from 3.5% in Spain to 25% in France.

This will further fuel the European drama boom, launched by Netflix in 2015, then bolstered by the arrival of Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV +, and Disney +, which recently announced they were set to deliver over 60 European originals. by 2024. HBO has produced original European drama since 2010, but now promises to ramp up production to produce at least 12 original scripted shows per year across the region. The upcoming series includes its first Danish original Suicide bomberSwedish comedy Lust and spanish drama Venga Juan.

“It’s a continuous evolution over the last five, six years and every year it’s this exponential advance in terms of number of players and scale,” comments Christian Vesper, president of Global drama at Fremantle, of the growing demand for original films. European drama.

This trend has been largely successful for independent pan-European production and distribution groups like Fremantle, which has worked with all platforms, but it also comes with challenges, especially when it comes to signing and retaining talent and retaining talent. rights.

“Talent is what drives this world. We’ve worked and continue to work with some really important filmmakers, writers, and producers, but when we get something right, it gets tough because everyone wants a piece of it and it’s a super competitive market for talent in it. this moment, ”Vesper says.

“The vertical integration promised by the biggest players can be a little frustrating in terms of negotiation but that said, it forces us to double the level of our creative talents as well as our producers because that is the motto”, continues- he. . “We always consider our talents first, and I include producers in the talent bucket, and I support that talent, by funding their businesses and helping them make their stories.”

Lars Blomgren, head of scripts for Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA) at Parisian production group Banijay, agrees that “the value of top talent is increasing” but he too suggests that offering more money is not the only way to attract and keep it.

“The most important selling point is that we can guarantee that we are actually going to do the shows and with the right partners and budgets. All of the top talent we work with just wants to find the right home and the right way to tell their story. “

Along with retaining talent, retaining rights is also a challenge.

Christian vespers

“We love working with streamers and they’re often the best house for our projects, but we’re an IP-driven company. We like to keep the rights, ”says Blomgren.

“For us, the important thing is to keep track of the slate and see what we have in development. It is very important where you place a project and find the right home for it. Sometimes it’s a streamer and then it’s a premium model, other times it’s a co-production, or sometimes it’s the civil service world. But it has become more and more important to have a strategy on who you are targeting as a partner.

Diffuser power

Faced with these challenges, production groups such as Banijay and Fremantle wish to continue working with a variety of historic European broadcasters as well as with platforms.

“Historic players, public broadcasters and Canal Plus-type players are really important customers for us and it is essential to maintain the diversity of the ecosystem,” says Blomgren. “We want to serve everyone, that’s a lot, but it’s important for us to continue to work with the historical players to make sure they are strong in the market.”

He suggests that a co-production style model combining support from three or four European broadcasters, sales and regional and European soft money is still most favored by Banijay in non-English speaking territories.

“It took a while for the audience and linear presenters to wake up and understand that the process needs to be faster and they need to engage earlier in the process to get a project and even argue to make it happen,” but the model co-production is still very much alive, ”he says.

An example of how European national broadcasters are improving their game is the creation in 2018 of France Télévision, Italian Rai and German ZDF of The Alliance to give the green light to bigger budget international drama productions.

Upcoming productions so far include the French thriller set in Dubai Mirage, historical biopic Leonardo, literary adaptation Germinal, who made his debut at Series Mania in Lille at the end of August, and debut at Mipcom Around the world in 80 days. Starring David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, the iconic 19th century adventurer of Jules Verne, the latter is a co-production between Slim Film + TV of Banijay in London and Federation Entertainment of Pascal Breton, supported by the Alliance and Australian Seven West Media.

“The objective is to co-produce high-end series with a bigger budget than the usual national series that we all do in our respective territories”, specifies Manuel Alduy, director of cinema and international development of France TV. “Around the world in 80 days is one of the biggest projects to come to fruition for us so far. It has all the elements of a true serial blockbuster, in terms of history, distribution, and location.

“Making this kind of alliance on specific projects between public broadcasters who have similar objectives for their respective markets is easier. We do not overlap in terms of rights and exclusivity. It’s a lot easier than trying to do it than with a platform like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, which are everywhere.

Alduy hopes to expand this type of operation to a wider range of European broadcasters in the coming months thanks to the recent launch of a new initiative with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), bringing together more than 100 broadcasters across the Europe as well as in Russia and Israel.

As part of this program, France TV and other participating broadcasters will offer EBU members a 30-day first look window to become co-producers of upcoming drama projects.

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Alongside this strategy, France TV is also working with platforms, in particular for projects relating to genres not traditionally addressed by the broadcaster. He recently partnered with Amazon Prime Video on Ziad Doueiri’s upcoming action series. Black Hearts. Alduy points out, however, that the broadcaster only plans to get involved in a handful of big-budget international series per year and that its main focus remains drama for purely national audiences.

Oliver Bachert, executive vice president of international sales and acquisitions at German production and distribution group Beta, also stresses the importance of a diverse ecosystem, especially for shows distributed through traditional licensing agreements. He’s at Mipcom selling a slew of new dramas, including Canneseries debut. Sissi, for which Beta has just announced a series of agreements with broadcasters, notably with the Italian Mediaset, the Brazilian Globoplay and NPO in the Netherlands.

“In addition to a purely commercial setup, there is some value and visibility in having one of the major broadcasters as a partner. In the UK, for example, if you have the BBC or ITV on board, it could create more visibility for your project than a pan-regional or international platform, which could focus more on its originals and see the remains as backing pieces, ”he said. said.

He also notes the growing footprint of regional, national and niche platforms citing the recent success of the ITV / PBS crime drama Professor T on BritBox over the summer, for which Beta handled sales.

The question on everyone’s lips is how long the dramatic boom can last.

“One of the key elements is the sustainability of the investment in the content from the commercial end,” says Bachert. “At some point, it has to work from a business standpoint. At the moment, the investment is still expanding but at some point it will need to be refinanced in some way.


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