MADRID — In days of yore, just a decade ago, new TV shows at Mipcom were marketed and sold to free and pay TV networks around the world. Much of the running was made by the Hollywood studios, talking up their new fall bows.
Enter the disruptors. Global platforms now acquire and increasingly commission hundreds of TV shows worldwide not every year but every quarter.
Examining genre shifts and emerging themes and show types over April-June, a recent Ampere Analysis report, “New to SVOD Q2 2018: Drama Shift and Zeitgeist Documentaries Characterise Quarter,” authored by Guy Bisson, drilled down on the trends in both. “The aim is to delineate where the key sales opportunities lie and what the emerging trends tell us about what SVOD players will likely be wanting to buy in the near future,” Bisson writes. These are now decisive for the U.S. and ever more international TV industry coming into big market. Symptomatically, the report refers to the “global majors.” But it’s talking about the likes if Netflix, Amazon et al., not Hollywood’s studios. Following, 10 Findings:
1.THE NEW POWERS THAT BE
The report examined the program grids of 110 platforms, with the following 30 included in the analysis: Amazon Prime Video, Canal Play, CBS All Access, Claro Video, Cmore, DisneyLife, Foxtel Now, HBO Go, Hooq, Hotstar, Hulu, icflix, iflix, Lightbox, Maxdome, Mediaset Infinity, Movistar+, Neon, Netflix, Now TV, Shahid, ShowMax, Showtime Anytime, Sky Ticket, Stan, Starz Play, TIM Vision, Viaplay, Wavo, Zive. If sellers, or analysts, don’t know them it’s about time they did.
But it’s not always the most likely platform which is buying the most. When it comes to drama title numbers, not prices paid, of new (2018-produced) dramas, the world’s top buyer was Shahid, the Arabic-language VOD app of Arab world MBC Group. Top drama buyers, by title, 2Q 2018: Shahid (41), Amazon (41), Netflix (34), Hotstar (23), HBO Go (20), Foxtel Now (20), NowTV (19), Movistar + (17), Hulu, U.S. (14), Starz Play (12).
3.NETFLIX, AMAZON, HULU: WHAT MARKS THEM APART?
Drama rules O.K. across all three platforms. Of series and feature docs only, originals and buys, Netflix added 157 2017/18-produced hours of drama over May-June, vs. 72 hours of animation and 67 of comedy. Drama led newly-added hours at Hulu (66) and Amazon, which at 165 hours, bested Netflix, though the later added more original drama.
But platforms continue to broaden content types and genres. “Platform-specific changes reflect both business changes and the increasing importance of differentiation in the increasingly crowded market for SVoD viewers,” Bisson writes.
So, though it saw a drop in kids’ content as Hollywood majors continue to remove content, Netflix’s second most popular genre when it came to new added hours was animation (72). Amazon’s No. 2 new show line was, in contrast, docs and biography (86). Most of its factual slate came from acquisitions, with only one new original documentary in the quarter, Ampere Analysis notes.
Hulu’s second new-add preference was reality (39). A Netflix mainstay, with 67 new hours added, comedy ranked No. 4 on Hulu, among preferred new scheduling types, and animation at a lowly No. 7 (just 7 new hours).
4.EXCLUSIVE IS THEIR SECOND NAME
“Doubtless reflecting the increasing dominance of the global majors in new drama production,” Bisson argues, only 23% of new bows were licensed to more than one platform. “That is a “noticeable downward trend,” he adds.
Taking all the 30 platforms, among new drama, slice of life/family stories pre-dominated, with 44 new titles, just edging out good/evil/fantasy/space fare. But romance ranked No. 3 (17 ). That may reflect the platforms’ increasingly international slants as they seek to mark themselves apart in local territories, aiming to deliver or showcase high-end, progressive on traditional local genres. Helping a “mini peak” in romance dramas, Bisson cites Netflix exclusive Korean drama “Something in the Rain,” Amazon-featured Taiwanese romance “Love in Memory” and cross-cultural Hindi drama “Bili Hendthi” on Hotstar. Bisson adds: “While drama remains the key genre for originals and exclusives, there is some suggestion in the data that the focus of original drama is shifting towards more general drama rather than specifically crime and sci-fi focused storylines that have been such mainstays of SVoD original programming in more recent years.”
That said, crime still makes a large showing. But Ampere Analysis breaks it down int sub-categories: Street (17), police/investigator (16), manipulation (16), true crime (7). Showing how distant the global platforms now sit from classic U.S. broadcast networks, the digital platforms only added 7 crime procedurals over the three months.
Remarkably, 56% of the newest titles added were non-scripted, driven by documentary, followed by reality and lifestyle. Thanks in part to the World Cup and Royal Wedding, sport was the most popular theme of non-scripted, leading to “a noticeable uptick in sports documentaries,” followed by current affairs – read: Royal Wedding,” Bisson suggests.
“Always popular” adventure/adversity titles, “frequently having a learning aspect to its story,” led kids’ programming releases over April to June, with 22 new titles, followed by, at a distance, friendship-themed stories (7). First season additions included Mattel Creations’ “Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures” and Hasbro’s “Treehouse Detectives,” both to Netflix; Disney’s live action performing arts adventure “Penny on M.A.R.S.” joining Now TV; and Nickelodeon’s “Knightsquad,” landing on Australia’s Foxtel.
“Sitcom emerged again as the focus for newly-produced, newly added titles in the quarter as SVOD players shift focus from stand-up towards more scripted comedy formats,” says Bisson.
That could of course reflects their growing embedment in local markets, justifying larger comedy budgets.
While sit-com and family-life themes remained dominant, Ampere Analysis notes, however, again an”upswing in romantic comedy. Examples: Season 3 of Talkback-produced non-scripted beauty-judgement show “Your Face or Mine,” on Now TV; season 4 of Amazon-backed “Mozart in the Jungle” on New Zealand’s Lightbox; long-running French friends comedy “Les Mystères De Lamour,” Season 18, on Amazon.
9.’NETFLIX INTERNATIONAL DRIVE IN OVERDRIVE’
“Netflix international drive in overdrive,” Ampere Analysis announces, noting 28 series, original commissions and exclusives, added to second-quarter schedules, a large number of which are international titles. “International production across all genres is increasingly the bedrock of Netflix’s original production slate,” Bisson told Variety. He adds: “Netflix needs to maintain international growth; look towards its own customer-value growth story; and differentiate itself in an increasingly crowded SVoD market. Local production ticks all the boxes in terms of achieving that.”
10.A SHIFTING GEOGRAPHICAL BALANCE OF POWER
A final table in the report analyzed the origins of SVOD originals released from April through June. Of brand new original dramas, the U.S. added 27, Japan 9 and the U.K. 3. “But there was strong on-going evidence of the increasing internationalization of original production,” Bisson notes. Originals now come from not only the now usual slate of European and Latin American countries but, say, the Philippines. The number of originals from outside the U.S. – 25 – almost matches U.S. production. Nobody’s suggesting the U.S. will loose its predominance among SVOD originals production. But it will most certainly my be the only production center for global SVOD platforms, and increasingly global originals.