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EBU urges greater PSB collaboration

SÉRIE SERIES: European public broadcasters must come together to regain market share from global OTT rivals pulling viewers away from traditional networks, it has been claimed.

Jeroen Depraetere

Jeroen Depraetere, head of television at the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), said the group was more important than ever as new and emerging players with huge reserves of money, such as Netflix and Amazon, continue to roll out new drama series with unprecedented speed and budgets.

“The total amount of investment from public broadcasters comes up to €18bn [US$21bn] a year in content creation,” he told delegates here at Série Series in Fontainebleau, France. “That means in 2017 we had twice as much investment in content compared with Netflix and Amazon.

“If we get our act together as public broadcasters we still have a lot to put out there. We should look at how we can work together in the best way to regain our market to make sure our content is put in the right position.”

Depraetere’s rallying call comes after the launch last month of The Alliance, forged by pubcasters France Télévisions, ZDF in Germany and Rai in Italy to develop high-end drama.

Last year, Nordic pubcasters DR (Denmark), SVT (Sweden), NRK (Norway) and RUV (Iceland) also agreed a new coproduction strategy to produce 12 dramas a year, known as N12.

Depraetere’s comments here preceded a debate between executives, including those from Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE and VRT in Belgium, about the future of public broadcasting in Europe, where the speakers all called on pubcasters to be daring and take more risks, with less importance placed on viewing figures.

Ville Rilén, director of content at YLE, said: “Public service companies must have a variety of drama. They must experiment. They need the figures and the ratings but we must try new things.”

Wim Janssen, content manager at VRT, said pubcasters should take risks and help people understand the world around them. “Also with drama, what’s interesting is to put ethical questions and not define what the answers are,” he said. “It’s important to put questions and see how it resonates with the audience.”

Christian Rank, head of drama at DR, also spoke about the future of the network’s drama output following a 20% cut imposed by the Danish government on the broadcaster’s budget, which he explained was introduced following views that DR had grown too big and moved away from its core public service mission.

“Primarily, when we talk about drama, DR’s success has had to do with strong in-house drama department and series fully financed by DR, which has given a lot of creative control and led to daring programmes,” he said. “Now, with a general budget cut, we can also be forced to coproduce more. It’s a big discussion.”

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