With big-budget blockbusters like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Mulan” launching simultaneously online and in theaters, streaming has “pushed into its own white space” and is unlikely to vacate that space any time soon, according to Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson.
Speaking during a European Film Market opening session at Berlinale, Bisson outlined some of the major tremors which have shaken the global film and TV industry over the last year. Arguably chief among them is the shifting value of windows which has been accelerated by the pandemic and the streaming boom.
“That PVOD content, some of those theatrical releases put content where streaming has yet to tread: in the premium blockbuster theatrical release window. That, of course, fed into the wider cycle of (streaming) growth and audience shift,” Bisson said.
The question of whether major studios will persist with their straight-to-streaming model once the pandemic is over loomed as large over Bisson’s EFM presentation as it does over the industry as a whole.
Ampere’s models indicate the smarter financial play is to restore the traditional theatrical window for “all but the lower budget releases,” Bisson said. However, in reality, herding all their big budget horses back into the theatrical barn and shutting the door doesn’t seem like a plausible strategy for the studios. Bisson predicts they will opt for a “mix-and-match” approach going forward.
“Given the meteoric growth of certain streaming platforms like Disney Plus, it could still make sense to push some theatrical releases exclusively towards those streaming platforms. As is often the case with these things, the answer probably lies somewhere in the middle,” Bisson said. “I don’t think theatrical is dead, I think as soon as we can we will go back to it, it has all sorts of value around promotion and marketing that’s difficult to quantify, but I do think there’s some releases now that will start to go direct to streaming.”
While the outlook for the theatrical window (the value of which has plummeted over the last year) remains to be seen, another window which has almost hit breaking point is that of home entertainment.
A former cash cow for the major studios, Bisson said that home entertainment is now surviving almost exclusively in the digital space.
“Where pay TV has grown, it’s largely now coming from streaming services, and where the free-to-air advertising market has maintained its situation within the wider windows, it’s due to online video advertising,” he said.
Despite indications from Netflix that there might be a little pull-back on the streaming front post-pandemic, Bisson believes that we have “hit a pivot point.”
Most of the major streamers are now pushing an expansive global content agenda, with Netflix leading the way. Per Bisson, 62% of the streamer’s upcoming new originals are being made outside the United States, a remarkable figure which will likely only grow as series like “Lupin” continue to make headlines with their eye-popping viewership counts.
“We’re on the cusp of an even greater influx of streaming players, who will continue this trend,” Bisson added.
Precisely which territories Netflix has earmarked for its global expansion push has been surprisingly easy to track. According to Bisson, “there is an almost perfect correlation…between the number of subscribers in a country, and the number of Netflix original productions.”
In a previous report, Ampere flagged Belgium, the Middle East and Eastern Europe as being underserved for originals from a Netflix perspective, and sure enough the streamer has made pushes in those markets of late.
“They’re basically following the money or following the audience in terms of their original strategy,” Bisson said.
This all presents a clear opportunity for international content producers to “act more like a global studio,” as Bisson put it, in serving the increasingly ravenous demands of big streamers.
“The opportunity is targeting and realizing what those different platforms want…and realizing that quality stories and narratives can work internationally when they are not English language,” Bisson said. “It’s also realizing that there’s an opportunity in the hold back of studio content for their own platforms to fill that hole.”