Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” will be sold to networks internationally for the first time after Lionsgate scored a rights deal that will see it launch sales of the show at Mipcom, the biggest global program-trading get-together of the year.
With Netflix and Amazon retaining global rights to their originals, some of the biggest shows in the world never make it to the market. But Lionsgate’s distribution arm will arrive at Mipcom in Cannes with the first three seasons of “BoJack” dubbed into 11 languages. Lionsgate’s deal with Michael Eisner’s Tornante, which makes “BoJack,” means that it will get to sell Seasons 4 and 5 internationally at a later date. It can also offer buyers some on-demand rights.
Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury has already done a deal for “BoJack Horseman” with Comedy Central in the U.S. The international deal has been more than a year in the making, Jim Packer, president of worldwide television and digital distribution for Lionsgate, told Variety. “Animated comedies are hard – they are not easy to produce, but they work incredibly well in syndication,” he said. “These shows tend to perform at a level that allows them to get licensed year after year internationally.”
Lionsgate previously sold “Orange Is the New Black” internationally, and series such as “House of Cards” had international distribution outside Netflix. Those deals came about before Netflix developed a global footprint. After the streaming service’s worldwide launch, it sought to hold on to global rights to its expanding roster of originals, as has Amazon.
Tornante founder and former Disney and Paramount boss Michael Eisner sees signs that that may change. “BoJack” was an early show for Netflix, starting in the U.S., before the streamer extended its deal to cover streaming rights for English-speaking and then international territories. “I always wanted to be able to control its destiny,” Eisner said.
He said he thinks Netflix will use “BoJack” to test the syndication waters. “They have such a giant library now I think they are interested in the experiment and how will it do post-streaming on Comedy Central, and how will it do post-streaming [on TV] in the U.K., Germany, and the rest of the world,” he said.
The fifth season of the Raphael Bob-Waksberg-created show recently dropped on Netflix. Will Arnett plays the titular horse-man hybrid in the series. “The best show about the entertainment industry is an animated comedy starring an alcoholic horse, an enthusiastic Labrador, and a workaholic cat,” Variety said of the heavily satirical series.
Given Netflix’s secrecy around engagement, Lionsgate cannot offer buyers a breakdown of viewing on the streaming platform, but because it has launched on Comedy Central, the sales team has some data to take to market. Packer said that the “BoJack” premiere on the U.S. cable net was second only to an episode of “The Office” this year.
“It has a great footprint and people could have watched it on Netflix, but when you put it into the Comedy Central environment, it did incredibly well because there are still a lot of people who either still hadn’t watched the show, didn’t know about it, or maybe had watched later episodes,” Packer said.
Comedy Central is expected to look at taking “BoJack” for its networks around the world, although no international deals are in place yet.
Should sales to traditional channels ultimately bolster Netflix viewing, Eisner said he envisages the streamer looking at similar deals for other shows.
“It is my opinion, and I think they agree, that this will be promotion because the whole library will [still] be sitting on Netflix,” he said. “This is an interesting experiment. They have a very strong show in ‘BoJack’ to try it with. It doesn’t mean there aren’t other shows – action-oriented hours or live-action comedies – that couldn’t be experiments as well.”