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Ukrainian drama tastes changing as viewers turn to light-hearted content

CONTENT UKRAINE: Ukrainian producers have seen a shift in domestic viewer habits away from hard-hitting social drama towards more light-hearted content.

Olesya Lukyanenko

In a panel session at C21’s Content Ukraine On Demand forum entitled Evolving Ukrainian Drama, Natalya Strybuk, chief producer of scripted content production development at MGU-owned TV channel Ukraine, said that despite hard-hitting and edgy dramas making a splash in international markets, Ukraine’s domestic audiences have other priorities.

“We’ve seen that viewing trends are changing in Ukraine,” she said. “Firstly, the amount of digital watching is ever-increasing, but we’ve also seen that audiences are less interested in heavy-going shows that they have to sit and watch attentively for an hour. The demand right now is for content to be shiny, and good for watching in the background.”

Nevertheless, Olesya Lukyanenko, creative producer at Film.UA Group, remarked on the recent international success of grittier Ukrainian series such as crime drama Hide & Seek, which has been acquired by German distributor ZDF Enterprises, and period drama Love in Chains.

“We have a lot of history and social affairs to draw from in Ukraine,” she said. “That’s helped the tone of our drama series about either what’s happening in Ukraine or what’s happening now. I personally like to invest in real event stories such as social dramas or things that we can involve journalists in.”

Tala Prystaetska

Tala Prystaetska, creative producer at Ukraine’s Starlight Media, said: “A lot of our drama is predictable or melodramatic,” she said, “but in the last five years we’ve had a real breakthrough in developing event television and trying to create our own genres. We also aim for variety – we make costume dramas, social dramas, comedies and more, and that’s unique to us in Ukraine.”

The producers on the panel agreed they faced a dilemma when trying to cater to the tastes of home audiences and international buyers. Eugen Tunick, creative producer at StarLightMedia, believed variety was the key.

“Streaming platforms aren’t so popular among Ukrainians now but we hope they will be in a few years. It encourages broadcasters to take more risks as the audience is more diverse. Everyone wants to make cool drama series but they also want something for the ‘normal’ viewer. Right now, we’re creating dramas for both linear and OTT, which creates a 50/50 split,” he said.

The word of the week from Ukraine has been coproduction, with many panellists at the conference expressing their desire for their home industry to partner with producers from all over the world, from its CEE neighbours to Latin America and Asia. Strybuk said TV channel Ukraine was now considering a show’s collaboration potential at the development stage.

Eugen Tunick

“We take the sales potential of each product into consideration, partially because it expands our creative horizons, and it allows us to offer our audience a bit of a broader spectrum of the plot and themes. We’re always keeping an open mind about all the potential sales for different territories for various shows. Stories that we’re selling internationally now are international crimes set in Ukraine, which allows us to collaborate with almost anyone. We’re working on a series with Turkey set in the Black Sea, for example.”

Tunick added: “Everything is changing right now, so it’s difficult to say where Ukraine will be in five years. We’re now producing series of real quality like our shows Bruce and Love in Chains and I hope that’s still the case in a few years. But we’ve got to have some money as well. We’re going to have to produce in cooperation with other countries, because that’s the only way to create original drama for Ukraine, because if you have a creative idea and can’t find the money for it, the idea gets left on your table.”


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