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MIA: Jan Mojto, International TV Honchos Discuss Ways to Make Shows That Travel

International TV producers are gunning to capitalize on growing demand for TV dramas around the planet, and further erode Hollywood’s domination of the market. But what kinds of shows work across borders? Is the global market for TV skeins getting too saturated?

These were among topics kicked around by a panel of high-caliber international TV execs during Rome’s ambitious new MIA mart dedicated to film, TV and multimedia content.

Beta shingle topper Jan Mojto (pictured), who was moderating, noted that everyone in Europe is talking about “how do I make my show international?” In France this drive is more culturally driven, “in Italy it’s economic, in Germany the driving force is strangely enough creators and producers who want their shows to travel because of an ego thing,” he said.

But “what happens if everything goes to the international market: is it crowded there?” Mojto asked.

The short answer is “yes.” But for various reasons, including Netflix and Amazon commissioning internationally, and greater diversification driven by audience fragmentation, space in the marketplace for non-U.S. shows is growing.

The sweet spot are shows that score top ratings on the home front and also travel widely.

Just a couple of weeks ago the third season of  Nordic noir “The Bridge,” which is sold around the world, opened in its home region and the audience share was between 35% and 40% in all five countries, said Nordisk Film and TV Fund topper Petri Kempinnen.

“The credit goes to the people who are writing, acting and directing the series, and manage to expose it to a bigger international audience,” he noted. “It has some kind of a social layer that seems to be of interest to people also in other countries. There we have the core of international success,” Kempinnen said.

Mojto, jokingly called it “Nordic cultural imperialism.”

The mood at MIA was that America’s so-called “cultural imperialism” in the TV field is waning.

“Many of us go every year to the L.A. Screenings in the U.S. and we see that some $300 million are spent in developing hundreds of shows,” said Avi Armoza, CEO of Isreal’s Armoza Prods.

But eventually just “50 of them go on air and just a few, maybe three or four, get a second season,” he noted. “So we know how difficult it is to come up with a good story. But anywhere around the world someone can come up with a high-concept for a story with great potential.”

For Armoza, it’s “Hostages.” Warner Bros. produced the U.S. version after which international broadcasters realized that the original Israeli version, was actually much better, he recounted. “For the first time we were able to sell the original to the BBC and Canal Plus, and the success of selling the local version enabled us to get funding from co-producers in France and other places to co-produce the second series in Israel with international money.”

Italo pubcaster RAI’s head of drama Tinny Andreatta said one business model for RAI involves high-profile series shot in English, like Dustin Hoffman-starrer “Medici: Masters of Florence,” being produced by Italy’s Lux Vide and Frank Spotnitz’s Big Light Prods., and sold by the new TV unit of Gaul’s Wild Bunch.

The other model, she said, are local projects with very high production values, such as Sky Italia’s gritty “Gomorrah,” sold by Beta to 120 territories and produced by Cattleya.

In the case of “Gomorrah,” “the subject matter is not that important; it’s the style in which you do it that counts,” said Cattleya topper Riccardo Tozzi. However, subject-wise, most Italian TV exports are either crime or corruption-themed. For the moment, those are the skeins that seem to be in demand outside of Italy.

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