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Global TV Boom Fueled by Cross-Market Content

“Booming” is the only way to describe the global marketplace for television.

Deregulation and the growth of competition from pay TV and upstart OTT providers have ignited the demand for content in markets that not long ago were limited to one or two major TV outlets, usually state-controlled.

Revenue from pay TV outlets grew at a compound annual growth rate of 7.3% in the five years to 2014, reaching $223.5 billion in 2015, according to media research firm IHS Markit. Europe and North America saw pay TV growth rates of 4% during that period. But in territories where viewing options are just starting to blossom, such as Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, growth rates hit double digits. That pace will cool off as the markets become saturated — and with the inevitable swings of local economies — but it’s no wonder the largest media conglomerates are looking around the world for future growth drivers.

“If you look at all the major channel groups in the U.S., they’re all built out as far as they’re going to go [domestically],” says Erik Brannon, principal analyst for IHS Markit. “These channel groups are kind of like the Roman Empire — they may wither and die if they stop expanding.”

21st Century Fox’s move to buy out the 61% of European satcaster Sky it doesn’t already own is in keeping with the focus on overseas expansion for U.S.-based conglomerates. Sky’s platform serves 22 million subscribers in the U.K., Ireland, Germany, Austria, and Italy. Another key focus driving Fox’s $23.2 billion bid is its interest in Sky’s technology, user interface, and innovative advertising. Fox is hoping Sky’s success can be a template for its U.S.-based networks.

Sky is among the broadcasters that have seen a big shift in the competition from pay TV when it comes to scooping up expensive sports rights. Sky and France’s Canal Plus garnered a huge market share over the past 15 years by grabbing must-see soccer rights. Now the one-time upstarts are facing their own challenges for sports from entrants such as France’s Altice Group and the U.K.’s BT Group.

Other types of content continue the trend toward globalization. Programs commissioned by Channel 4, ITV, Germany’s RTL and ProSieben, and Canal Plus and TF1 are migrating back to the U.S. as a secondary sale after development and production has been finalized overseas. “The Good Wife” star Chris Noth just landed a procedural, “Gone,” that originated at RTL and TF1 through NBCUniversal’s London production arm. Bryan Cranston, “Outlander” showrunner Ron Moore, and Sony Pictures TV cut a deal with Channel 4 when the group sought a home for “Electric Sheep,” based on the stories of Philip K. Dick. Italian costume drama “Medici” is about to land a U.S. home, and “The Young Pope” was a creation of Sky, Canal Plus, and HBO.

Here’s a look at the biggest players in the import-export programming business.

BBC, ITV, Channel 4

The Big Three British outlets are the largest exporters of programs and formats to countries that include the U.S. Among the recent success stories is HBO’s adaptation of “The Night Of.”

Canal Plus, TF1, Gaumont, EuropaCorp

Netflix’s “Narcos,” NBC’s “Hannibal,” and NBC’s new “Taken” are among the globe-trotting dramas hailing from France.


The media giant’s Los Angeles-based production arm is mining the company’s vast archive of telenovela and unscripted series with development projects spread across broadcast and cable networks. Televisa recently fielded Lifetime’s “Devious Maids” and ABC Family’s “Chasing Life.”

RTL, ProSieben, UFA Fiction

Sundance TV’s “Cleverman” and the Peabody and International Emmy-winning “Deutschland 83” have German roots.


The broadcaster in the last two years launched major costume dramas “The Young Pope” and “Medici: Masters of Florence,” which rolls out in France on
SFR’s premium SVOD service Zive, in Latin America on Sony Pictures TV, and in Japan on Hulu, as well as in many other territories.

Keshet Intl.

After hitting big with the format that became Showtime’s “Homeland,” Keshet has served up SundanceTV’s “The A Word,” FX’s “Tyrant,” and a slew of unscripted formats that have traveled around the world.

Tokyo Broadcasting System, Fuji TV

“America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “Iron Chef,” and “Hole in the Wall” are among the reality formats to come from Japan.

South Korea

The wacky bucket-list reality show “Grandpa Over Flowers” became a U.S. hit for NBC this summer as “Better Late Than Never.”

DRG, ZDFE, Svensk Filmindustri

AMC’s “Feed the Beast” and “The Killing” and FX’s “The Bridge” are among the recent examples of “Nordic noir” to travel to the U.S.

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