LILLE, France — Once nearly one-way traffic, the U.S. TV trade balance with Europe is narrowing just slightly, Avril Blondelot, Eurodata TV head of content insight, suggested at Series Mania’s Lille Transatlantic Dialogues.
That may come as little comfort to European film-TV authorities as U.S. global streaming services look set to dominate the global OTT space. But it does represent one development in a now multi-layered North America-Europe TV relationship which sees the two TV powerhouses united as much as divided – in multiple co-productions and most programming trends – and a flow of talent, literary inspiration from Europe into North America.
Led by “The Good Doctor,” “911,” “Instinct” and “S.W.AT.”, 430-plus North American scripted series launched in Europe in 2018, according to Eurodata TV Worldwide/NoTa/relevant partners analysis used by Blondelot in her presentation, Europe and North America: What’s New on the Air?
But North American hits, punching 20% or more above channel average, dropped 27% last year, not in number but in share and all slots combined, Blondelot said.
That can be attributed to “the increase of quality European series and the power of local in audience preferences,” Blondelot said.
Broadcasts are also clustering. One quarter of North American shows were broadcast last year on just 10 channels in Europe, led by such services as Sky Atlantic.
There is some two-way traffic. European shows do air in the U.S., most especially, reading English-Language series, on Showtime which has aired Hat Trick Productions’ “Episodes,” “Ill Behaviour” and “Patrick Melrose,” the last a Europe-U.S. co-production.
Moreover, European titles are finding increased, if still usually limited, distribution in the U.S. Non-U.K. European productions appeal ever more to niche audiences, “Gomorrah” and “Deutschland 83” and “Deutschland 86” playing successfully on AMC’s Sundance TV.
Europe and slightly less North America are united by crime.
45% of European scripted series in North America are crime series, which feature strongly in North American exports to Europe. Both – think Scandinavia’s “Sherlock North,” NBC’s “Blue Book” – feature buddy cop duos.
Both continue to feature strong women, whether Warner Bros. TV’s ’s “Batwoman” or Finland-Germany’s terrorist come women’s friendship thriller “Bullets.” But perspectives are broadening, Blondelot said, to take in, for example, Swedish Viaplay original “Heder,” about a women-staffed law firm specializing in gender abuse crime. On the flip-side of strong women, dramas can feature fathers who are not perfect role-models: Shane Meadows’ “The Virtues” is a case to point.
Both North America and Europe are producing period emancipation dramas: HBO-BBC’s “Gentleman Jack,” for example.
One difference between U.S. and European drama may lie, however, in crime thrillers’ portrayal of families at risk. The set-up is common to both. But the threats often differ.
“In Europe, we tend to create fear with real elements,” Blondelot said, citing Polish series “Judas,” aired by RTL in the Netherlands, “a true story set in a real place, and Spanish broadcaster TVE’s “La Caza: Monteperdido,” (pictured) which bowed in Spain to a standout 12.1% market share on March 25, TVE’s best new series audience figures since “Estoy vivo” in Sept. 2017.
In the U.S. and Canada, in contrast, the threat may come from the paranormal or fantastic, such as in Hulu’s “Castle Rock” horror anthology, Blondelot argued.
Drama series are not made in cultural vacuums.