The rise of global streamers in Europe, new opportunities for third-party producers and improvements in off-screen parity were among the hot topics at Variety and the European Film Market’s TV Summit, which took place as part of the Berlinale Series Market & Conference.
The 20-plus speakers at the Feb. 26 event at Berlin’s Zoo Palast included Oscar-winning “Mrs. America” actor Cate Blanchett; Netflix’s director of international originals Rachel Eggebeen; HBO Europe EVP of original programming and production Antony Root; ITV Studios’ EVP of global content Julie Meldal-Johnsen; Sky Germany’s SVP of original production Marcus Ammon; and “Deutschland 83” writer-producer Anna Winger.
Read on for Variety’s key takeaways from the summit:
Netflix is adapting its fast-paced working models to European standards
Appearing in conversation with a group of its TV creators to discuss the realities of producing for Netflix, Rachel Eggebeen, director of international originals, was upfront about adapting the firm’s fast-paced working culture to European standards, which are traditionally slower. “Once we commission a show, we commit to it. We’re all in, we need partners that are all in, and we go,” she told Variety.
However, Eggebeen added that, “We’ve learned a lot (with recent international productions), in terms of the timelines and what makes sense here. Our goal is to find that middle ground where we are pushing boundaries and expanding opportunities…and at the same time melding into the cultures here.”
The executive said the business will not simply replicate U.S. working models in Europe, where breakthrough originals include Germany’s “Dark” and Norway’s “Ragnarok.” The key, she said, is taking what’s worked Stateside – such as the showrunner model – and pairing it with what might work differently in Europe. “That combination is what’s most important for us.”
Starzplay is leaning into local originals in a big way
As Lionsgate-backed streamer Starzplay continues its global roll-out, Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch confirmed that local productions are underway in India as well as the Middle East, with three to four originals set to launch on Starz Arabia. A slate of Spanish originals are also on the way, said the executive.
Starzplay is distributed globally via the likes of Amazon Channels and Apple TV, as well as local telco providers such as Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone. The business is also continuing talks with U.K. pay-TV operator Sky around integration on that platform. “Our goal is to be on every platform,” said Hirsch, who later added that the standalone Starzplay app is also available in a number of markets, including Italy and Spain, which launched last week. In 2020, the direct-to-consumer offering will be rolled out in 20 markets altogether.
Cate Blanchett observes tangible changes for women in the industry
The “Stateless” co-creator was on hand in Berlin to discuss her new ABC Australia drama, which has been globally acquired by Netflix, and spoke out about how the industry has changed on the back of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement.
“I think women in the film industry — and I use the film industry as an exemplar, not as an exception — have for far too long been separated from one another, and I’ve noticed a way in which some lines between women who are creating work have deepened — circling the wagons not in an exclusive sense but just being more open about roadblocks or difficulties or moments of failure.”
Blanchett added that the number of women working on film sets have risen dramatically compared to her early days in the business, when she was “one woman to 35 men.”
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years — I’ve been the only woman in front of the camera or as a crew member,” said the Oscar-winning actor. However, on more recent projects, such as the Blanchett-starring Hulu miniseries “Mrs. America” and ABC’s “Stateless,” there has been parity, she said.
ITV Studios aggressively hunting third-party projects in Europe
Although it has a 55-label production network of its own to draw upon, including Italian “Romulus” producer Cattleya and France’s Tetra Media Studio, Julie Meldal-Johnsen, executive VP of global content for ITV Studios, said the business is still wide open to third-party projects. “We’ve still got an insatiable appetite. There’s huge talent that we’d love to work with,” she told gathered delegates.
Meldal-Johnsen stressed that ITV Studios’ local productions must have global resonance, giving the example of ambitious historical drama “Romulus,” which explores the origin of Rome and will be shot in Latin.
“(It’s) crazy but brilliant,” Meldal-Johnsen quipped. “It’ll be subbed and dubbed into all sorts of different languages and no one will understand it, but it just gives it that sort of flavor, and from what we’ve seen of it, it’s looking excellent.”
Producers form alliances to be stronger together
During the session “In the Trenches,” Caroline Benjo, founder of Paris-based Haut et Court TV, whose production credits include “The Returned” and “The Last Panthers,” said the company has been bringing together Israeli and French creatives to devise original stories set in Europe, notably “Possessions” and “No Man’s Land” which are both in production.
Haut et Court TV recently signed a first-look deal with Quiddity in Israel to develop more projects, including “My First Family” penned by Maya Zaydman (“Our Boys”) and Ori Sivan (“In Treatment”) which will be pitched at Series Mania.
Meanwhile, Lars Blomgren, head of scripted for EMEA at Endemol Shine, said the company is working with both broadcasters and subscription-based services like Netflix and HBO Europe on ambitious shows that can’t be financed by broadcasters alone. He gave the example of “Caliphate,” which was financed by SVT in Sweden and Netflix, which took global rights outside of Sweden. Blomberg also cited the example of “Beartown,” a Swedish original miniseries that Endemol Shine produced for HBO Europe.
Last year, Endemol Shine delivered 69 non English-language scripted series out of 92 in total for the company. Already active in key markets across Europe, Endemol Shine has just launched MadeFor Film, a new scripted label in Germany, a vibrant TV market with lots of funding opportunities and deep-pocketed broadcasters.
Originals should encourage, not threaten, the scripted formats business
Speaking as part of the ‘Finding Tomorrow’s Hot TV Formats Now’ session, Nick Smith, EVP of formats for All3Media International, said a ramp-up in original production should encourage the scripted formats business. “Original content is obviously a bigger risk, and more expensive than acquisitions. One way to approach that is to buy formats — shows with proven success,” Smith observed.
The panel also debated the latest format trends, which include a drive into feel-good formats, said Crispin Clover, A+E Networks’ director of international production and acquisitions. The executive showcased “Generation Dating,” where people in their 20s and 70s help each other to find new love. Another new business model emerging in the formats landscape is the customized co-development of formats for clients, which are then sold in international, said Anne Roder Botbol, senior sales manager for Keshet International. A clip from “Drive Master,” a shiny-floor amateurs’ car-stunt contest from Keshet International and Russia’s NTV, proved a session highlight.
John Hopewell and Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.