Berlin: The Rules for International TV Drama May Be Changing

While there’s arguably never been a better time for international TV series, a panel of key European players gathering in Berlin on Monday addressed the challenges of developing internationally co-produced dramas for the global market, with a sense that the old rules don’t apply anymore.

Look to Norway for proof of that. After years of making dark and brooding crime thrillers that helped put his country on the map, Norwegian pubcaster NRK’s Ivar Kohn noted that producers are shaking up that proven formula with shows he described as “Nordic light.”

“We’re a little bit tired of ourselves,” he said during a panel discussion at Drama Series Days, the TV-oriented market event that runs alongside the Berlin Film Festival. The panel was moderated by Variety’sStewart Clarke.

The changing television landscape is still taking shape. A-list talent can help drive that change and makes sense “if there’s a certain level of budget where you have to find a big name to bring on board,” said Beta Film’s Moritz von Kruedener. But compelling storytelling that takes “viewers into a unique, special world” is still the key to wider distribution, according to Studiocanal TV’s Rola Bauer.

The profusion of polyglot TV series in Berlin this year suggests a growing belief that not only English-language content travels. “Mainstream American networks are still very xenophobic,” but that matters less in an era of Netflix and Amazon, Bauer said. “The fact that we have all these new platforms coming out is indicative of the fact that we have lots more time slots to fill,” she added.

That gives producers an incentive to roll the dice, especially as they try to reach coveted but elusive millennial viewers. Case in point: NRK’s cult-hit web series “Skam” (“Shame”), which got the backing of both European pubcasters and telecoms for its Italian and French remakes. A German version is also on the way, and an English-language version for the U.S. and Canadian markets is being developed by Simon Fuller.

The innovative, vlog-style format no doubt helped capture millennial hearts and eyeballs, but the bigger takeaway might be that global audiences are moving on from what Sarah Doole described as a decades-long tradition of series centered on “middle-aged blokes.”

“I think we’re in a new era, and it’s coming from a commercial imperative…about viewers’ needs and wants,” said Doole, who is head of drama at FremantleMedia Intl., which premiered female-centric series “Picnic at Hanging Rock” in Berlin on Monday. “Viewers want women in there, driving the narrative forward.”

More TV

  • Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack

    Writers Guild Posts Scathing Video Attack on Agency Packaging

    The Writers Guild of America, which is threatening to require members to fire their agents, has posted a scathing video attacking how major agencies conduct packaging. Titled “Agency Conflicts of Interest,” the video explains that compensation for writers has declined by 23% between 2014 and 2016 and blames the agencies for taking packaging fees on [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Million Dollar Mile'

    TV News Roundup: 'Million Dollar Mile' Debuts Exclusive First Look

    In today’s roundup, “Million Dollar Mile” releases an exclusive clip and CBS announces premiere dates for three shows.  DATES CBS has announced premiere dates for one new series and two returning series. The new action adventure series “Blood and Treasure” will debut with a two-hour episode Tuesday, May 21 at 9 p.m. right after the [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Agents Accuse Writers Guild of Threatening to Throw 'Industry Into Chaos'

    UPDATE – The dealmakers appear to be getting nowhere. Negotiators for Hollywood agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved little progress at their seventh session on Tuesday, with a chaotic scenario looming on April 7. “When Guild leadership is ready to move on from their declared threatening phase, we stand ready to work [...]

  • Jussie Smollett Empire

    Assessing 'Empire' Options After Jussie Smollett Charges Dropped

    The shocking Jussie Smollett saga took another twist on Tuesday after prosecutors announced they have dropped all charges against the “Empire” star. Smollett had been indicted on 16 counts of filing a false police report, but now that those counts have all disappeared, studio 20th Century Fox finds itself in a sticky situation as to [...]

  • Jussie Smollett

    Jussie Smollett's Legal Drama Eclipses the Rest of His Story (Column)

    Like so many other stories these days, the Jussie Smollett legal saga seemed governed not by coherent logic, but by chaos, and, in its absence of narrative, invites any observer to find in it the story they prefer hearing. Smollett, the “Empire” star who had been in legal jeopardy due to allegations of staging a [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Plans for Agency Pact Expiration: 'There Will Be Difficult Moments'

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America have sent members contingency plans for the possible expiration of its agency franchise agreement on April 7 — and admitted that it may be a rocky road. Members received the letter Tuesday from the guild’s negotiating committee as the WGA and agents were about the hold their seventh [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content