At a Wednesday masterclass at the Göteborg Film Festival, Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson described companies’ push into acquiring global rights as the “God Particle” – the phenomenon whose existence is the driving factor behind many, if not most, of all current international TV industry trends.
In a conversation with Variety ahead of the Swedish festival, he gave a preview of the class, breaking down some of his key talking points.
As the U.S. studios have begun to focus on direct-to-consumer on a global basis, powered primarily by digital streaming, many traditional distributors, deprived of content, have taken one step back in the value chain and began producing their own original content, often based on traditional studio models of production.
“Basically, the pure play model of distribution is disappearing,” he explained. “The model where you bought rights and then sold them, that model is challenged now.”
“The part of the value chain which was distribution, taking a program and selling it to a channel or some other platform, that’s not where the distribution business is now. It’s moved back a whole segment in the value chain to production finance, production development and early stage development,” he added.
With distributors, pay TVs and telcos producing more each year, there is more demand in the market for the tools and talent required to make high quality content. And with increased demand comes increased costs.
“Demand is leading to shortages of talent, so the price of talent goes up. Then there are facilities. I was in L.A. recently, and people were saying the stages are all fully booked for the next five years. Years back you would have fallow periods where nothing was being made and that’s now completely unheard of. That leads to elevation of budget,” he elaborated.
Increased budgets mean increased risk for producers. It’s become far more common then, in recent years, for producers to look to mitigate that risk through co-production. And, with audiences hungry for expensive-to-produce science fiction, fantasy and historical drama, the need for co-production has never been greater.
For major U.S. producers, another way to cut cost is to film outside the U.S., where filming is often prohibitively expensive.
“It’s much cheaper producing outside the U.S., often at a fraction of what it would be for the same sort of production quality,” noted Bisson, before pointing out one of the industry’s most often accepted truths: “Local stories work well in local markets.”
Unexpectedly, with an increase in international co-production comes an increase in non-English-language content. Spanish has experienced a boom on the back of popular series from Netflix, dating from the streamer’s first full non-English-language Original “Club of Crows.” Other more recent examples are “Money Heist,” “High Seas” and “Elite” from Spain.
“I expect to see the increase in non-English content to continue,” said Bisson. “Spanish and English will remain the primary languages, but Mandarin is likely to be the next to see major growth, and possibly Russian and other central European languages, Turkish as well as that’s already a strong international content culture.”
Another trend noticed at Ampere is an increase in content directed towards older audiences as the demographic continues to be an area of growth for platforms.
“Streaming platforms skew to younger people generally, but when you look at which segment is growing the most, that is people in their 40s and 50s,” Bisson pointed out.
With SVOD penetration among 18 to 30-year-olds at near saturation, the growth must come from outside that age group.
“People in their 40s and 50s have a different interest from people in their teens, 20s and 30s. They like crime, drama, they like historical drama and period drama, they like more factual content and that shift’s influencing what’s getting made,” he pointed out.
Like SVOD before it, AVOD (Ad-Supported Video On Demand) is also evolving, and an area Bisson will be watching carefully over the next year. While subscriber uptake has been slow, it has also been steady, as subscribers turn to a free alternative to increasingly costly SVOD platforms and bundles. The drawback of AVOD, beyond the advertisements, is that most AVOD platform content is five-to-10 years old.
“But look at Netflix,” Bisson argued. “If you go back five years, more than 50% of its content was more than five years old. Now it’s 35%. It’s likely we will see a similar evolution among the AVOD players as money starts to come in. They will strip out that older content, start to buy newer, start to make their own as well, and then we’ll see a similar evolution where the money makes sense.”
He added, “But for now, AVOD is providing a much-needed lifeline for deep archives and a distribution market for finished programming that’s sitting in catalogs of libraries all over the world.”
With distributors getting into production, an increase of non-hegemonic-language series being produced, social media platforms getting into original content, and new local and international platforms looking to get into original production, recent fears of a international drama TV bubble on the edge of bursting seem to have been premature.
“When we talk about the production boom as a boom, eventually that will be sustained because of the circle that has led to scale change. And that’s the fundamental shift in the business,” argued Bisson. “So, this year is going to be an exciting year.”
Currently, at least in most of international, peak TV seems nowhere in sight.
John Hopewell contributed to this article.