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RE>CONNEXT by Flanders Image

Programming Profile

Streamz builds SVoD business with original Flemish content


With Flanders Image’s online conference Re>Connext taking place this week and next, Peter Vindevogel, CEO of year-old Flemish SVoD platform Streamz, reveals how a mixture of local Dutch-language content and acquired programming from US studios is a recipe for success.


There have never been so many competitors trying their hand in the streaming wars, and it’s an issue that has been front of mind for visitors to Flanders Image’s online conference Re>Connext this week.


On the one hand, major newcomers such as Disney+, which at the last count had 116 million subscribers, is threatening the stranglehold of the ‘old guard’ of Netflix and Amazon, while on the other hand, there is the growing swell of local and niche VoD platforms too.


Peter Vindevogel, Streamz

Among the latter is Streamz, a Flemish SVoD service launched last year by Liberty Global-owned cable operator Telenet and commercial group DPG Media. Headed by CEO Peter Vindevogel, the platform targets the Dutch-speaking community in Belgium.


A gap in the market for local, Flemish content – not served well by international players – drove the decision to roll out Streamz, Vindevogel says. “Streaming is always on the rise and while we noticed that new viewers tended to sign up to global VoD platforms, we knew that Flemish people are also fond of local content. We decided to exploit that contradiction with Streamz, giving audiences a new, shiny platform filled with local programming,” he adds.


Not wanting to oversaturate the local market, Streamz is the product of two local broadcasters. “We wanted to go against the grain of every broadcaster launching their own streaming service and instead join forces. We saw no point in trying to compete against each other in the local ecosystem, particularly as, according to research, households have two SVoD subs, one being a local streaming service and the other being an international platform,” Vindevogel explains.


To differentiate itself from the major players, Streamz focuses on local Dutch-language content, including original content and programmes acquired from the three local broadcasters in Flanders: DPG, pubcaster VRT and commercial group SBS Belgium. With certain local shows, Streamz has the first-window rights and they appear on the service six months to a year ahead of their linear broadcast in Flanders.


Storm Lara
Storm Lara

“Local content is extremely important to us and in the year since our launch we have ordered 22 local titles. We also have a big library of content from Flemish broadcasters, which puts us in a unique position compared with other streamers in the area. We’re now looking to move towards a greater offering of original content,” Vindevogel says.


But while local and original content is prioritised, Streamz is less concerned with focusing on specific genres. Instead, the streamer has a broad slate that appeals to its target audience of adults aged 25 to 35. “This means that the content we’re looking for is not the same as a linear channel,” Vindevogel says. “Typically, we stream shows that are bold, dark, raw and unconventional.”


Its original drama line-up includes A Private View-produced Storm Lara, which stars Ella Leyes as a radio host who receives a mysterious phone call that turns her life upside down, and F*** You Very Very Much, produced by Caviar. The latter revolves around the wild and derailed lives of three 30-something friends, played by Frances Lefebure, Evelien Bosmans and Daphne Wellens.


Fair Trade, made by Belgian producer Marc Punt’s Independent Productions, is another Streamz Original. The crime drama follows two narcotics cops who are disillusioned by years on the force and find themselves increasingly wrapped up in criminal dealings.


In the comedy space, there is the Lecter Media-produced series My Worst Best Friend. Directed by Maarten Moerkerke and based on the book of the same name by Ilse Beyers, it follows a group of six friends who work together in an advertising agency. However, their friendship is threatened when one of the group suspects she might be sharing her husband with one of her best friends. Maaike Cafmeyer, Ella-June Henrard and Clara Cleymans are among the lead cast members.


F*** You Very, Very Much
F*** You Very, Very Much

Other original dramas are local adaptations of international formats, such as Australian comedy No Activity. Originally made for Aussie streamer Stan by Sydney-based Jungle Entertainment, No Activity has been remade across the world, including by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for the US, and in Germany and the Middle East.


But for Streamz, the show, which centres on two police officers during a stakeout, has not been as successful as hoped, according to Vindevogel. “The remake worked very well in other countries but for us it was not a big success. Strangely enough, I don’t have a real answer for the reason for it, as we had two good actors. But it didn’t work as well as we thought it would. Maybe it was a bit too conventional, too predictable and not original enough,” he says.


What did work well for Streamz was an adaptation of Norwegian teen drama Skam, first produced by local pubcaster NRK. Titled WTFock in Belgium, the series explores the lives of a group of 16-year-olds, tackling subjects such as eating disorders, sexual identity and religion. “What made it a success was that we studied the Norwegian script and the show, which was hugely popular and acclaimed, and remained true to it. We just gave it a local flavour so that it appealed to young people in Belgium,” Vindevogel says.


Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu

Similarly, sci-fi series Déjà Vu, a remake of Radio-Canada’s Quebecois series Plan B, was a hit for Streamz. Produced by Fobic Films, the series follows a mother who is given the opportunity to travel back in time to correct the mistakes made by her teenage daughter.


In unscripted original programming, Streamz is looking for docufiction series and local stories that “make a difference,” according to Vindevogel. Among them is docuseries OnlyFans: The Naked Flemish Truth, which follows Flemish creators such as Jamecia Baker (Ex On The Beach), Megan Desaever (Temptation Island) and Yana Daems (Temptation Island) as they navigate the controversial platform. OnlyFans: The Naked Flemish Truth is produced by Het Konijn.


Another example of an original factual series with local people at the heart of its storytelling is music documentary series Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. It sees reporter and filmmaker Eric Goens, who produced the series, follow the DJ duo, from Willebroek, over the course of the year at glamourous events around the world, including electronic music festival Amsterdam Dance Event.


Streamz’s acquired content, however, is much less localised and is instead centred on critically acclaimed and hit series from HBO’s Sex & the City to the Kate Winslet-starring crime drama Mare of Easttown, produced by Wiip for HBO and Sky. “We have strong and pre-existing relationships with all the international studios such as HBO, Universal, Paramount and CBS, and they all have a presence on Streamz,” Vindevogel says.


Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike
Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike

Further international series acquired for the platform include the reboot of US drama Gossip Girl, which is based on the bestselling novels by Cecily von Ziegesar and the original show on The CW, developed by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, and HBO Max dark comedy The Flight Attendant, starring The Big Bang Theory actor Kaley Cuoco.


They join Sister Pictures and The Mighty Mint-produced Chernobyl, an HBO and Sky drama that dramatises the true story of one of the worst man-made disasters in history, when a catastrophic accident at the Ukrainian nuclear plant caused 31 deaths and subsequently led to an enormous exclusion zone around the site that remains in place to this day. Written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck, Chernobyl stars Jessie Buckley, Stellan Skarsgård, Emily Watson and Paul Ritter.


More recently, Streamz has picked up medical drama Nurses, produced for Canadian broadcaster Global TV, and The Unusual Suspects, female-led comedy heist series produced by Australia’s Aquarius Films for local pubcaster SBS. But it’s not only modern series that feature on the Flemish platform – classic titles such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos are also available on Streamz.


Alongside acquired and original content, Vindevogel says Streamz is actively seeking international coproductions. “Our main relationships are with neighbouring countries such as the Netherlands and its broadcaster NPO, and France with Canal+,” he explains. “It’s better to coproduce with local players and broadcasters than with an international streamer, as it means you can keep the rights.”


While the majority of content on Streamz is produced in Dutch, it doesn’t mean that non-Dutch-language programming is off limits. Sports drama The Window is an international coproduction between Streamz, Velvet, Fuji Television, Boogie Entertainment and ZDF Enterprises, supported by the Screen Flanders economic fund, and is an English-language series. Starring Sex Education star Samuel Jordan, it explores behind the scenes of the professional football world.


Unlike many OTT players, Vindevogel says there is no rush to roll out Streamz in other territories in the coming years. The first port of call would be French-speaking Belgium, but only after Streamz has beefed up its French-language offering, he adds.


Vindevogel is also not too concerned with present or future competition. “The advantage of being in a growing market is that it forces production companies to reinvent. This is because viewers now have different expectations, about both the look and type of the content as well as its rhythm and pacing. There is also no such thing as a leading territory – it is all down to the individual show.”