×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mipcom: Lionsgate TV’s Kevin Beggs on ‘Orange Is the New Black’s’ Foreign Appeal

CANNES — Lionsgate Television chairman and CEO Kevin Beggs spoke about the foreign appeal of “Orange Is the New Black” and the company’s global outreach during a keynote Wednesday at Mipcom.

In the past 10 years, Lionsgate Television’s biz has grown from $8 million to $500 million in sales, and according to Beggs, the international market has been a driving force behind that growth.

“Before anything goes out the door, we have to have a feel that it will work internationally,” Beggs said. “There are certain shows we can’t get behind because the international market can’t get behind them.”

Beggs said Lionsgate expected “Orange Is the New Black” to do well abroad from the start because the series’s showrunner, Jenji Kohan, has a humor and sensibility which works around the world.

“Orange Is the New Black” is indeed the most-watched show on Netflix in France and Germany, where the digital service launched last month.

Beggs noted Kohan’s previous series, “Weeds,” clicked with international auds because it poked fun at America’s war on drugs.

The exec said international sales help Lionsgate recover a sizable deficit on the shows (they) produce.

In markets that have strong local TV industries Lionsgate is also involved in format sales. Latin America, the U.K., Israel (for instance) are interested in optioning the “Mad Men” and “Nurse Jackie” formats.

The Lionsgate TV topper noted that European pay TV channels such as French paybox Canal Plus are more and more willing to ramp up their slate of English-language series.

“We are talking to everyone and we would love to find the perfect show to commission or co-commission for a French, U.K. or German pay TV network,” Beggs said.

Lionsgate is already sourcing talent and interesting formats abroad. Beggs cited Lionsgate’s recent acquisition of Jo Nesbo’s crime novel “Headhunters,” which the company will develop as a television series for HBO.

Beggs also gave marketgoers some perspective on working with a streaming service compared with a network. He said while streaming players may be look to push the envelop further and go for edgier content, they’re more cautious than network when it comes to investing in first-timers.

“Netflix is banking on experienced creators, filmmakers, people that have a track record that actually dovetails into their entire algorithm. They’re interested in things that already have some value to their customer base.”

He added, “A network is churning out many more series, so far, than Netflix is doing, so they have to inherently maybe take a lot more risks. … Netflix is very targeted, picking things that they already know should work.”

That being said, services like Netflix are less likely to act as micro-managers on a show, per Beggs.

Working with streaming services also allows creators to test new narrative grounds because there are no advertising restrictions and commercial breaks, Beggs pointed out.

In “ ‘Orange Is the New Black,’ (Kohan) is taking a lot of digressions… but you can do that (on Netflix) because you know that people are going to go back and rewatch, it gives you a lot of freedom to tell stories in a more novelistic way.”

Lionsgate is also looking to expand its presence in Asia. “We are looking at developing shows that could find itself in the market now. It’s a priority for the company, but it is also an emerging market for us, that will go a long way at making us strong,” Beggs said. “Shows like ‘Orange Is the New Black’ in China represent a huge revenue growth for us, which before was pretty close to nothing,”

Commenting on the straight-to-pilot model, Beggs said Lionsgate Television was a “big believer in that model. We’re focused on getting things out of development and into production, so a straight-to-series model is very attractive.”

The only setback with that strategy is that “you often start with the international market and work backward. But it’s very important for the American buyer to invested in a show emotionally, and treat it as original development, not just an acquisition,” Beggs told Variety in a separate interview.

Looking ahead, Beggs said he anticipates the launch of many more streaming players because the entry barriers have gone down. “In two years there’ll be six or seven legitimate players sitting here rather than three or four. Maybe more than that.”

He added, “On a pay basis you don’t need that many subscribers to get you to breakeven.”

Big brands are also bound to play significant role in scripted originals, per Beggs. “If traditional 30- or 60-second commercials are less popular, (brands are) gonna want to get inside shows that people are talking about. And a lot of those shows are going into these streaming and premium environments.”

More TV

  • Mergers and Deals Placeholder

    Tegna to Buy 11 TV Stations From Nexstar for $740 Million

    Tegna has set a deal with Nexstar to buy 11 TV stations — mostly Fox and ABC affiliates — serving eight markets for $740 million. The sale is contingent on Nexstar closing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media, which will make Nexstar the nation’s largest TV station owner by far. Nexstar projects the Tribune [...]

  • EMMA APPLETON as FEEF SYMONDS

    'Traitors' Producer 42 Hires Literary Manager Eugenie Furniss

    Eugenie Furniss is joining London- and Los Angeles-based management and production company 42 as literary manager, it was announced Wednesday. The company’s slate include movie “Ironbark,” a Cold War thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and TV series “Traitors,” a spy thriller coming to Netflix in the U.S. at the end of the month. Furniss joins 42 [...]

  • Disney Fox Takeover Placeholder

    Fox Corp. Pays Disney Sale Dividend, Sets May 9 Investor Meeting

    Fox Corp. has handed over an $8.5 billion check to help Disney offset tax costs related to the 21st Century Fox acquisition. As spelled out in the Disney-21st Century Fox merger agreement, the Murdoch clan’s newly established Fox Corp. was on the hook to pay a special dividend to 21st Century Fox on the latter’s [...]

  • Stranger Things

    Netflix Drops 'Stranger Things' Season 3 Trailer (Watch)

    The “Stranger Things” kids are done playing board games in the basement. From the new trailer for season three, which Netflix just dropped, and The Who song “Baba O’Riley” blasting throughout, it would appear that the gang of Eleven, Mike, Lucas, Dustin and co. are about to experience their “teenage wasteland.” The trailer opens with [...]

  • Tim Roth Series ‘Tin Star’ Gets

    Tim Roth Series ‘Tin Star’ Gets Third and Final Season on Sky

    Tim Roth will star in a third and final season of “Tin Star,” the Sky original drama. Like earlier seasons, it will play on Amazon outside the U.K. Genevieve O’Reilly and Abigail Lawrie also return in the final chapter of the story, which is produced by Endemol Shine’s Kudos alongside Gaumont U.K. Rowan Joffe created [...]

  • Little Mix Star Jesy Nelson Making

    Little Mix's Jesy Nelson Making BBC Documentary About Mental Health and Body Image

    Little Mix star Jesy Nelson is making a one-off documentary for the BBC in which she will explore issues surrounding body shaming and mental health in the age of social media. “Jesy Nelson: My Story” will launch on the BBC’s youth-skewed online channel BBC Three and then play on BBC One. Girl band Little Mix [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content