As the champagne flows at the Ronny Chieng-hosted Intl. Emmys gala ceremony in New York Nov. 25, the picture of television is changing. The globalization of content means streamers are increasingly looking to local production, allowing more people to come to the party.
Used to be that noms were made up of “a lot from the U.K., a few others from Europe and every once in a whole something from South America and Australia,” says Bruce L. Paisner, president and CEO of the Intl. Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. “Now we have more entries from countries where we used to have a few — like Brazil — and we’re getting lots of new countries.”
The 2019 noms highlight the shift. Programs and talent from 21 countries are up for awards, the broadest spread ever. Hungary makes its first showing, with a brace of nominations, but both Brazil and U.K. shows are taking center stage, leading the pack of nominees for this year’s awards.
Brazil scored noms in nine of 11 major categories in 2019. Isolated by its Portuguese language, it takes the awards very seriously, looking to big prizes abroad to proclaim to audiences at home that it measures up by international standards.
Girts Licis, head of strategy at TV analysis outfit K7 Media, notes the selection process works in Brazil’s favor, but there are also other factors at play. “The variety of Brazilian entrants clearly shows how the local growth of international players changes the playing field and the quality of the entries as we see programs from HBO, Fox and Netflix increasingly taking the spotlight,” he says.
With so much to play for, established market leaders such as Globo, Fox, Viacom and Turner have made energetic moves into high-end shorter-format drama series and short-format digital shows in Brazil. Globo SVOD service Globoplay has produced six original series to date this year. “We always accompany market movements, and transformation in the sector, to remain relevant to our viewers,” says Globo CEO Carlos Henrique Schroder. Just about the only category in which Brazil has not scored a nomination is telenovela.
To face off with new global platforms, TV players have adopted what Schroder calls a “production partnerships investment” approach, bringing the best of Brazilian cinema to the small screen. HBO’s “Ópera Aberta — Os Pescadores de Pérolas” is produced with “City of God’s’” o2 Filmes. Fox’s “One Against All,” Globo’s “Under Pressure” and HBO’s “Magnifica 70” are made with Conspiração Filmes, which is behind films such as Andrucha Waddington’s 2006 Sundance winner “The House of Sand.”
The U.K.’s noms include Christopher Eccleston in “Come Home,” in the arts category for Sky’s “John & Yoko: Above Us Only Sky,” and in the doc section for “Louis Theroux’s Altered States.”
“Victoria” star Jenna Coleman is up for lead actress in “The Cry.” She took a break from appearing as the iconic British monarch to star as a mother at the center of a missing baby drama in the BBC series. Soon after it bowed, she told Variety its appeal lay in its fresh take on a well-trodden genre: “It feels like something you think you know, but it takes on different elements that unfold the deeper you go into it.”
The series is set in Australia and Scotland. Claire Mundell, who runs Synchronicity Films, the Scotland-based indie that makes “The Cry” says, “TV drama is the new cinema. If you can find a concept with a universal hook at the heart of it, internationally it can go anywhere, even if it’s very specific in its setting.”
The U.K. holds strong cards when it comes to the Intl. Emmys given its program-making heritage, producer-friendly rules on rights and, of course, language. K7’s Licis predicts that more co-productions will be nominated in future years, and that the Brits will figure strongly.
“That’s where we are going to see a rise in the near future, with U.K. likely to be leading the way as well,” he says.