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TV Programme Market Report: Nordic Boom Continues

Ross Biggam – formerly director of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe and now working for Discovery – offers his latest round-up of news from the European TV programme markets.

Universal stories with local setting

What do broadcasters want from a co-production? Not an easy question to answer – there are, after all, 11,000 broadcasters in Europe. But a panel at the MIA programme market in Rome had a go at answering. We concluded that the ideal was “a universal story in a local setting”. Examples could be scripts about cyber-bullying or human trafficking: universal issues which could easily be given local flavour. Historical and political dramas were also reliable vehicles.

Russia seeks European partners?

I mentioned these conclusions at a TV conference in Moscow last week. There are, I believe, medium-term opportunities for co-production also with Russia – outside the scope of the EU Creative Europe programme, but with a good technical skills base and a rich literary tradition. And, although Russian broadcasting is coming under very tight political control these days – notably with non-Russian owners obliged to divest – producers have still been able to explore themes which could sell well overseas – notably KGB vs MVD, a series about corruption in the secret police in the 1990s.

Some Russian producers are interested in co-operating with Europe, although the current rouble exchange rate and downward pressure on TV advertising makes it unlikely this will be on the agenda for a couple of years – by which stage EU/Russian relations may have improved? Indeed, short-term, the decline in value of the rouble has obliged Russian broadcasters to increase the proportion of domestic content in their schedules as acquisitions have become prohibitively expensive – and this new-found focus on Russian content will only increase the impression of this being a difficult market for international players to crack.


Italian ‘Nordic style crime series’ Non Uccidere

Italy goes Nordic

Meanwhile, the Nordic boom shows no sign of abating. Interesting to learn that a new series by RAI, the Italian public broadcaster, is marketing itself in Italy as “a Nordic style crime series”. From the trailer I saw, the series, Non Uccidere, does indeed have a Nordic look to it.

The third series of The Bridge was also well received on markets where it was noted that the co-ordinated premiere of the series at 21h on a Sunday across all five Nordic markets (another tactic broadcasters are borrowing from cinema?) had delivered good ratings of between 35% and 40% audience share in each country.

Chile imports Turkish drama

And the phenomenal – and overlooked? – success of Turkish series also continues. The latest part of the world to go in for Turkish content is the original home of the telenovela, Latin America. Mega TV in Chile had transformed itself from a loss-making fourth place in the market to becoming the market leader largely through the success of Turkish imports, and fears that something similar could happen in Brazil was now leading local producers to call for local content quotas on pay TV operator.

Belgium gets in on the act

La Treve

‘Nouvelle vague des series belges’ – La Treve

I’ve mentioned before, both in this blog and at the conference in Copenhagen, that French series were showing great promise both creatively and commercially. France’s neighbours in Belgium are looking to get in on the act as well, with French industry bible Écran Total leading this week with the story of the “nouvelle vague des series belges”. This reports on the efforts of the francophone community in Wallonia to match the recent success in Flanders, with a second slate of four series qualifying for funding from the devolved regional government and from Francophone public broadcaster RTBF. Once again, there is an open acknowledgement of inspiration from other markets – the first series in the slate, La Trêve, is described as being “in the spirit of Broadchurch”.

Broadcasters buying European TV drama but not film

Finally, we should note that not everyone in the wider industry views the series boom as a positive. I have just returned from presenting to a group of European film sales agents. One of their issues is that broadcasters are no longer buying movies from other European countries – even a critical and commercial success like la Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) was generating little interest from broadcasters.

Now, there may be all sorts of reasons why, not least price, but might one factor be the availability of so many high-quality TV series? The relative attractions of 10 x 52 minute episodes as against a one-off movie, which is difficult to fit into the schedule, may have already been seen on numerous windows and is subject to a particularly unattractive regime for scheduling advertising breaks, are clear from a broadcaster perspective.

One idea floated by the sales agents is for some form of quota on public broadcasters for non-national European films – which, realistically, is very unlikely to be suggested by the European Commission and even less likely to be accepted by the Member States.

Ross Biggam is formerly Director General of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe and is now working for Discovery. He also a Associate Partner on the MeCETES project. Read Ross’s previous market reports here.

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