While change in the domestic TV business can often arrive slowly, the pace can feel glacial on the international front.
With subscription video-on-demand services such as Netflix making major inroads overseas, there is some trepidation over how it will affect the studio bottom line. However, studio toppers and others in the trenches heading to the French Riviera for Mipcom are taking it in all in stride.
“People are unnecessarily afraid of SVOD,” says Marion Edwards, head of international television at Twentieth Century Fox. “There is fear and concern that Netflix will put them out of business, but it’s not meant to replace premium pay TV windows. Rather, it’s meant to support them.”
Also, as Disney global topper Ben Pyne points out, SVOD offers only library content, which ultimately generates enthusiasm for the current season of a particular series.
“I love it and am a real believer,” Pyne says of the SVOD emergence across the globe. “What it tells me is that good content will give people a reason to watch.”
In the U.K., more auds are watching programs via LoveFilm, a subsidiary of Amazon. Now, with more options than ever before, viewers will have to decide whether to pay up to £10 ($15.42) per month for that service or Netflix, rather than much higher costs for a pay network such as Sky.
Netflix, which has already established itself in Canada, is set to tackle Latin America at the end of the year. Going forward, it looks likely the service will be in the U.K. and Spain in 2012. As for Hulu, the subscription-only product just launched in Japan.
As the European economy undergoes some extreme challenges and viewers look to cut costs, pay channels across the continent are in for a tough fight in holding on to subscribers.
“The hope is that the economy would be up, but recent events have not helped,” says Caroline Beaton, senior VP of program sales for Viacom. “With the recession going on there so long, it’s hard to say what the effect will be.”
Adds Pyne: “I’m worried about the European markets, but when I talk to colleagues there, they don’t see the declines on the advertising side they saw there years ago.”
With pay and free-to-air channels having exclusivity on current seasons, buyers will need to spend their coin wisely in purchasing new series at the confab to grab viewers. Ponying up for a hit show will not only pay dividends now, but down the road as well.
American comedy has always been a tricky transition for overseas auds, but breakout hits can sometimes overcome cultural and language differences. Such may be the case for Fox’s laffer and Zooey Deschanel starrer “New Girl,” which got off to a strong start in its Stateside debut and looks like a longtime player.
Buyers are often at the mercy of U.S. auds. With Mipcom coming about two weeks following the debut of the TV season, global channels will have intel about which shows have launched strongly (“New Girl,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Unforgettable”) and which might only last one season — or even less — such as “The Playboy Club.”
Fox also has “Terra Nova,” which looks to have strong international appeal. Shot in Australia and exec produced by Steven Spielberg, “Terra Nova” stars Ireland-born Jason O’Mara as well as Brit actresses Naomi Scott and Shelley Conn.
Other dramas that could generate strong interest include Warner Bros.’ “Person of Interest,” NBCUniversal’s adaptation of “Prime Suspect” with Maria Bello and Disney’s “Once Upon a Time” (from the exec producers of “Lost”), which is not debuting until late October in the States.
And while a great majority of pilots were viewed at the May L.A. Screenings, Disney will offer up the Ashley Judd vehicle “Missing,” set to premiere on ABC in midseason.
When not meeting with the studio’s salesmen, Mipcom attendees will have the option to attend several keynote addresses. Fox entertainment topper Kevin Reilly will present his take on the state of the business Oct. 4, while Mipcom Personality of the Year Anne Sweeney will address attendees a day later.
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