By Ed Waller 06-02-2014
Anyone at Natpe 2014 last week could have been forgiven for forgetting that the market was originally about selling US programming. There were exhibitors from every corner of the globe, bringing dramas from Turkey, gameshow formats from Korea and animation from Argentina.
There was a time when international channels would go to Miami simply to acquire their next fix of US content to take home to their own audiences, all keen to gobble up the next slice of Americana. That still happens, of course, but increasingly those international channels come here to sell their own shows – or at least their own formats – into the US market. Ever since Ugly Betty and In Treatment, producers from Bogota to Tel Aviv now aspire to get a remake into US network primetime.
Broadcasters in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America – many of which previously had acquisitions-led schedules – are now so far into their local production strategies that they see America more as a market to sell into than one to buy from.
Take Turkey, for instance. According to some commentators, it’s now the second-largest producer of TV drama in the world, after the US, and you’ll be lucky to get an American network series into Turkish primetime these days. Shows there are not only equalling anything Hollywood can turn out, in terms of glossy, big-budget production values, but culturally they’re more relevant to that audience than anything coming out of Tinseltown.
Furthermore, those Turkish shows – such as big hits Ezel and Magnificent Century – are selling into neighboring markets like the Balkans and the Middle East, ousting even more US shows from primetime slots there.
This is changing the way some of the big US studios are tackling the international markets. The global trend for local production has seen some put more emphasis on selling remake rights to shows like Gossip Girl and The OC, as a local version of their drama would get into mainstream primetime, whereas the US original might not. This obviously requires a much longer process for achieving a return on investment than simply selling the original show.
This move towards original production also up-skills local writers and producers and leads to them having the ability to develop their own stories, meaning even fewer slots for acquired US product – and even more shows and formats that they can pitch to US networks.
Perhaps that’s why some US studios are now focusing on launching their own channels into markets where they perhaps once had output deals with major broadcasters, such is the changing demand for their wares. And perhaps this is also why international SVoD services are being welcomed with open arms as places to sell US shows that would have previously gone into broadcast primetime in those local markets.
This, in turn, reduces demand for US shows among local channels even further as those programmes become more available on others platforms, legally or otherwise. Why would international channels feel the need to queue up to air American series long after the web pirates, then Netflix and then their Hollywood-backed pay competition has done with it?
The US studios now seem more interested in acquiring the more proficient and successful local production companies in order to secure a product pipeline that’s heading back into their own market. The land grab for UK production companies is now being followed by similar ones in Israel and anywhere else that has a good supply of IP.
These trends aren’t just affecting demand for US programming. Broadcasters in Colombia, for instance, now remake Argentinian telenovelas rather than simply airing the original, as they perhaps would have done a few years ago.
The question for US studios is how this will affect license fees for their programmes, as their clients become not only more self-sufficient, but want to turn the tables and pitch their own shows back to the studio during the same meeting. Interesting times, indeed.