Even with thousands of hours of television being presented at this year’s Mipcom, one new and specific trend has emerged in scripted military dramas. From the U.S. alone come a number of patriotic dramas premiering this fall: CBS Television Studios’ “SEAL Team” and “Valor,” NBCUniversal Intl and Keshet Studios’ “The Brave” and Fox Networks Group Content Distribution’s “The Long Road Home.” But when taken on the road, how will scripted American military missions fare outside the United States?
“I think the trend resonates everywhere, it’s so topical,” says Prentiss Fraser, exec vice president and managing director of Fox Networks Group Content Distribution.
When Fraser started noticing similarly themed scripts a few years ago, she was hardly surprised. “It’s what you’re watching on the news all the time, so it makes sense to have quite a bit of it in the scripted space,” she says. “People want to be able to uncover what’s really going on and be more educated about what is happening around the world.”
At Keshet Studios, “The Brave” came out of the success of such films as “Zero Dark Thirty,” “American Sniper” and “13 Hours.” “These movies ended up doing much better at the box office than anticipated, but we’ve never seen that portrayed on television — these very realistic, grounded portrayals of the people that are keeping our country safe, oftentimes unbeknownst to us,” says Keshet Studios’ president Peter Traugott.
Those films enjoyed international success, and Traugott expects “The Brave,” which shares distribution rights with NBCUniversal Intl., to be just as well-received. First, it is an action show, which, he says, “always travels well.” Additionally, it has a “very high production value, which is also well received overseas. And it’s got a close-ended, story of the week, which is also something that’s still very coveted in the international marketplace.”
In order to not alienate buyers on the global market, a creative decision was made early on not to focus on antagonists from one geographical territory, as well.
“Not everything is a terrorist attack by a Middle-Eastern person, far from it,” says Traugott. “That has creatively been very organic to our show. In turn that’s also helped us in the international marketplace.”
Not every distributor is concerned with placing each individual program, though. CBS, with its pre-existing volume arrangements with a number of major broadcasters around the world, knows its series will find homes.
“They believe in CBS as a studio and a network and the success ratio that we’ve enjoyed over the years,” says Armando Nuñez, president of CBS Intl. That said, Nuñez says “SEAL Team” will perform on-par with previous military programs including “NCIS” and “JAG.”
What “SEAL Team” also has in its favor is its strong cast, Nuñez says, noting there has especially been a “good, positive reaction” to leading man David Boreanaz.
While there is a proliferation of military shows, those shopping their series are adamant that the only thing they have in common is the service setting. “SEAL Team” is being touted as a procedural with a focus on the personal toll of the mission, while “The Brave” is being presented as a rescue mission of the week and “Valor” as a serialized thriller skewed toward a younger audience. “The Long Road Home” is an adaptation of a real-life event. And military shows are hardly a uniquely American phenomenon this year, as a number of international shows — the Turkish production “Warriors” and Britain’s “The State” from Fox and the Israeli “Commandments” from Keshet, to name a few — also explore themes of war in the modern world.
Despite the high number of similar shows on the market, distributors feel there is room for everybody. “There’s enough audience out there that if the shows are good, you could have three of these shows work,” Traugott says. “You’re going to get different audiences for each.”