Drama Makes the Running at 2017 MipTV

Multiple shows suggest the ambition - artistic, economic - of current TV fiction production

Drama Makes the Running at 2017
© 2017 Starz Entertainment, LLC

CANNES — “American Gods,” “Ride Upon the Storm,” from “Borgen” creator Adam Price, and Beta Films’ very high-end “Babylon Berlin,” co-directed by Tom Tykwer (“Cloud Atlas”), all bow at a 2017 MipTV trade fair which captures the world’s TV industry in fairly dramatic transition.

Pay TV ($204 billion last year) passed TV advertising ($182 billion) as the single biggest source of funding for the TV economy, according to Ampere Analysis, which will present an analysis of future TV at Mip. By 2021, OTT subscriptions in the U.S. and Western Europe will pass traditional pay subs as the favorite way to watch TV.

Already, at 142 million to pay TV’s 219 million in 2016, OTT subs ranked way above free TV households (109 million) in the Western Europe/U.S. in 2016, a recent Ampere Analysis study suggested.

Traditional TV groups still accounted for 80% of TV spend in 2016 in the U.S. and Western Europe. But, up from just 25 million clients in 2011, OTT also ranks as the big driver of increased TV drama funding, not just in the U.S. and Western Europe but the whole world.

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The number of new scripted shows launched in 16 markets and by multi-territory OTT players was just 1% up in 2016 to 1,178 series, and actually dropped in four out of Europe’s biggest TV territories, The Wit calculates (see table). Included in this number, “extra-territorial” drama titles from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and YouTube Red shot up 110% from 31 in 2015 to 65 in 2016, however.

The fundamental issue has been the evolution in the way people consume content. The good news is for creators is that more people are watching television content than ever before. said Armando Nuñez, president-CEO, CBS Studios International.

He went on: “The issue is how that evolves the monetization pipeline.”

The rise and rise of digital platforms will play out through the whole of MipTV as it does through the TV industry at large. It will focus many of the big data presentations. It also explains many of MipTV’s most significant strategic announcements, and the scale and ambition of many of the projects coming onto the market, such as “Babylon Berlin.”

U.S. studios and major broadcast groups remain far better positioned to ring changes in the new TV landscape.

“There is still at the end of the day a healthy demand for broad, advertiser-friendly, mostly-for-broadcast-networks, procedurals like the types on CBS. They still work, still drive a massive audience,” Nuñez said.

In the premium environment, Nuñez said he was “anticipating an announcement in the near future” of another Showtime portfolio partnership along the lines of deals cut with Canada’s Bell Media, Sky in the U.K., Germany and Italy, STAN in Australia and Spain’s Telefonica-Movistar Plus.

The challenge of established TV groups is how to stand up to the muscle and markets of the new digital disrupters.

“When we look at drama, we speak about the fact that there is a lot of drama out there, there’s a fragmenting market, and a lot of high end drama coming now on the SVOD platforms. So creative work has to be stellar,” said Jens Richter, CEO, FremantleMedia Intl.

He added: “Our ambition is to produce at the highest possible level, to produce shows that besides generating ratings, are also a tool to create and work on the branding of the broadcaster or platform. That could be the impact of a more competitive drama world that we live in these days.”

One key to stellar creative work: “Outstanding writing or show-running,” Richter added, citing “Hard Sun” with Neil Cross, “American Gods” with Brian Fuller, and “The Young Pope” with Paolo Sorrentino. Another is casting, he added, instancing that of Natalie Dormer (“The Tudors,” “Game of Thrones”) in “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

One way or the other, most companies, at least on their biggest dramas, are often joining forces, led by increasing U.S.-U.K. collaboration. Two examples at MipTV: “American Gods,” FremantleMedia’s biggest MipTV play, is produced by FremantleMedia North America and Starz, but co-financed at an early stage of production by Amazon Prime Video; “Hard Sun,” from “Luther” creator Neil Cross, is a BBC1-Hulu co-production.

Yet every market is its own story, and broadcasters their own prototypes, as they react to the SVOD challenge. The biggest free-to-air broadcast network in France, whose chief executive, Gilles Pelisson, receives Variety’s Achievement in Intl. Television Award on Tuesday, TF1 is driving into TV  production and sales, buying Newen last year. Mediaset España, its equivalent in Spain, has downscaled on drama production over the years, focusing on select dramas and minis as it concentrates on event programming.

Meanwhile, Brazilian TV giant Globo is energetically diversifying from its telenovela base into short-format series, which amp up action, and their social issue heft. One, “Jailers,” a foreseeably gritty penitentiary thriller-melodrama, screens at the MipDrama Screenings today.

In general, the foreign-language TV sales market is most certainly moving fast, sustained Pascal Breton, founder of Federation Entertainment, which produced Netflix’s first French series, “Marseille.” Three examples instanced by Breton: “Narcos” has a 9.7 out of 10 rating in China, although Netflix doesn’t air there; worldwide sales on Canal Plus original “The Bureau,” which Federation produced, including to the Sundance Channel; the huge audience on Netflix for the mainly Spanish-spoken “Narcos.”

The MipDrama Screenings, Mip’s industry centerpiece, are in themselves a response to the surge in drama production in the world, an attempt “to help buyers see and filter programs from around the world before the market”  because of “so much choice,” said Laurine Garaude, market organizer Reed Midem’s director of the TV Division.

Reed Midem is expecting 450 buyers the MipDrama Screenings, up from 350 in 2016, Garaude added.

But challenges remain. “Of course, you don’t have so many countries that deliver premium shows, Breton added, saying that for premium shows, you just need “the best talent, real writers-directors and show-runners, and for international markets outside the U.K., Scandinavia, that’s the most difficult thing, to build that on our own.”

“MipTV for the U.S. studios forms part of the ongoing, year-round, global process. The only market where we are highlighting something brand new and rolling out all the stops in terms of bringing talent and producers is the L.A. screenings,” said Nuñez.

So it will be some studios or studio-owned companies, but mostly leading international independents, who will make the running at 2017’s MipTV:

*Endemol Shine Group has “The Wall,” one of Mip’s big formats, plus, in dramas, “Tin Star,” a Canadian Rockies-set crime dramedy, with Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks.

*FremantleMedia Intl. will start conversations with linear broadcasters on “American Gods,” which world premiered at SXSW, on which Amazon Prime Video has a first TV window in international and FMI the second. Also on FMI’s books: Pre-apocalyptic crime drama “Hard Sun,” from “Luther” creator Neil Cross, with Jim Sturgess (“Cloud Atlas”) and Agyness Deyn (“Sunset Song”), first seen at March’s BBC Showcase.

*20th Century Fox Television Distribution heads into Cannes with a full slate including the imminently-launching “Prison Break” and FX’s critically acclaimed “Legion.”

*Beta Film will unveil first-look excerpts from the €40 million ($42.6 million), 16-segment “Babylon Berlin,” co-directed by Tom Tykwer (“Cloud Atlas”), set in Roaring Twenties Berlin, as well as selling “1993,” the follow-up to hit Sky Italia production “1992.”

*At MipTV, Sky will – appropriately – world premiere “Riviera,” a thriller written by Neil Jordan and starring Julia Styles (“The Bourne Identity”) as a widow who discovers her fortune was amassed by ill-gotten gain. Series ranks as maybe the highest-profile of MipTV full screenings.

*A3Media Intl. unveils “Innocent,” a four-hour miniseries produced by Jeremy Guilt, (“Foyle’s War”), about an innocent man attempting to build his life after having been convicted for his wife’s murder; woman student friendship thriller “Clique,” a second A3Media Intl title, produced for online BBC3, plays at the MipDrama Screenings.

*Sneak-peaked at Sunday’s MipDramaScreenings, the buzzed-up ”Ride Upon the Storm,” a drama about faith, family and fortitude from Adam Price (“Borgen”), heads Studiocanal’s slate with a second title from Denmark’s SAM Productions, “Below the Surface,” a propulsive hostage action thriller.

*A & E has Knight Templar action drama “Knightfall,” exec produced by Dominic Minghella and Jeremy Renner,

*Along with political thriller “Fearless,” from “Homeland” writer Patrick Harbinson and “Victoria” producer Mammoth Screen, which screens at MipTV, ITV Studios Global Entertainment will be pushing new drama “Harlots,” produced by ITV and Hulu, turning on a brothel in eighteenth century England.

*eOne Entertainment will be talking up “Mary Kills People,” a buzzed-up assisted suicide show about a doctor (Caroline Dhavernas) who works at night as an Angel of Death.

The MipDrama Screenings are “one of the stars of the show,” said Garaude. “But MIPTV also offers the biggest weekend in factual with MIPDoc and MIPFormats, a strong focus on VR and a full schedule of events for the kids programming community,” she added.

“Combined with the launch of the Cannes International TV Festival in 2018, we see this as a game changer, Garaude said of April 4’s Pre L.A. Screening Showcase, where Disney Media Distribution and Lionsgate will talk up titles before the L.A. Screenings.

VR pioneers will discuss how VR becomes a transactional marketplace at an inaugural Immersive Content Summit. “That’s a key question, a first in this area and very important,” said Garaude.

MipTV runs April 3-6.

The Wit stats paint original series production as down in four of Europe’s big five markets. That may be temporary, however. It is difficult to extrapolate longer term trends from just one year’s results especially in countries with relatively low production volumes, said The Wit’s Bertrand Villegas. Just a few months ago, RTL, for instance. announced it would go straight into production on six one-hour dramas.

All new scripted shows
2016 2016 vs 2015 2015
USA 488 6% 461
UK 137 -14% 160
France 77 -33% 115
Germany 74 -6% 79
World (SVOD) 65 110% 31
Canada 57 10% 52
Turkey 49 -9% 54
Italy 49 20% 41
Brazil 43 39% 31
Netherlands 34 26% 27
Argentina 26 -7% 28
Mexico 25 9% 23
Spain 20 -38% 32
Sweden 16 14% 14
Denmark 13 8% 12
Norway 5 -29% 7