“Content has never been more abundant, VOD streamers too,” argued the pitch for Conecta Fiction’s Tuesday night panel titled Streamers, the New Global Ecosystem, A Map Not to Get Lost, hosted by Galician native Maria Rua Aguete, senior research director for TV, video and advertising at Omdia in the U.K.
Filling chairs at the virtual roundtable, a half-dozen executives from companies in Europe and Latin America shared their plans for the near future, highlighted key projects and upcoming series, and discussed strategies in producing and distributing original fiction content. Several shared clips of upcoming banner series.
Half in Pamplona with the other half tuning in via video link, panelists included: María José Rodríguez, head of Spanish originals and Amazon Studios in Spain; Susana Herreras, editorial director of fiction production at Spanish streamer Movistar Plus; María Grechishnikova, CEO of Russia’s Star Media; BritBox International’s new markets launch director Neale Dennett from the U.K.; Alan Sim, commissioner and executive producer at Finland’s Elisa Viihde Viaplay; and Vanessa Rosas Molina, COO and head of Televisa’s Blim TV in México.
“Streamers; why are there so many?” asked Aguete early on. “The map gets complicated with more than 5,000 streaming services in the world and more than one billion subscribers.”
According to her data though, one third of those subscriptions belong to only three services: Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon. So, what does that mean for the others? For starters, finding and developing new talent is an absolute imperative. Each executive made their case to perspective partners, some at the expense of their counterparts, while courting the assembled talent watching in Pamplona or on the Conecta Fiction website.
“With us, it’s much easier to streamline a project from get-go to production,” argued Elisa Viihde’s Sim, explaining that for independent producers looking to get right to work on a project, working with a smaller platform involves far less bureaucracy.
Amazon’s Rodríguez was willing to concede that “I cannot say that’s not true, but we are working on it. However, I do think we offer greater flexibility in that we finance and take that risk so the producer doesn’t have to,” she added.
When asked about co-producing outside of their own territory, each of the attendees expressed a willingness, often an eagerness, to work with foreign partners, although some were more judicious concerning the conditions necessary for such partnerships.
BritBox, a joint venture of British broadcasting giants BBC and ITV, is a subscription streaming service which hosts exclusively British content. Although the company does shoot and work with producers outside the U.K., its productions “need the talent to have a British feel and the content to be appropriate for a British service, but that could certainly involve co-producing with anyone around the world,” said Denis.
The same was true for Blim, which hosts exclusively Spanish-language content, although the Televisa-owned streamer is less concerned about geographical origin. “We have a very big library. Just at Televisa we produce or co-produce about 800 hours of content a year,” she explained, adding that Blim also has also has around 15,000 more hours of content from other studios in Latin America and Spain.
Movistar Plus’ Herreras explained why these types of self-imposed standards are so important. “If you are thinking too much about if a series will travel [outside its native territory], sometimes you end up making a Euro-pudding,” she warned. “But in general… if we work with the best talent, stay rooted in a local context, invest time working on story and characters and if we take take risks, we have a chance to succeed.”
Although there was almost definitely more to be said with such an esteemed group of executives assembled in one place, time became short as Conecta Fiction’s packed schedule loomed. Before calling an end to the proceedings however, Aguete asked each participant to offer some bit of advice learned over the 18-ish months of the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing specifically on important TV trends in that time.
“Maybe it sounds simple, but we are here to entertain people,” said Rodríguez. “So, what we have to do is introduce shows that entertain.”
“I learned to work from home!” joked Movistar’s Herreras. “I think time spent at home was very important during the pandemic and it was good for us to be there with the people in their homes.”
“I’m not a big believer in trends,” said Elisa Vidhe’s Sim. “During the pandemic it was uplifting stuff, but in four years who knows. Pick the stuff that’s the best written, it’s the best writing that succeeds.”
Star Media’s Grechishnikova argued that “People want a lot of content, but they want quality content. It’s not about how many hours we produce, but what we produce.” As for trends, she was optimistic about the “potential in education content. It’s about mixing education and entertainment.”
And finally, BritBox’s Denis agreed with what he’d heard from the others, before adding that one key area where many streamers can improve is helping their customers find the content they’re looking for. “Focusing on surfacing the content so viewers can quickly find what might suit them is a skill and a challenge that is increasingly important with the amount of content available to people today.”