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L.A. Virtual Screenings: A Market Wrap, From the Latin American Surge to Platform Obsession and IP Drive

Parot
Credit: VIACOMCBS

The L.A. Virtual Screenings ran May 11-20. U.K. broadcast network ITV held an ITV Festival on Wednesday. VIS Global Screenings take place on June 2. Following a brief take on what has become the May Screenings, once an on-site single event held in L.A. and what they and drama series deals this week say about the state of a still vertiginously evolving international TV scene:

Did the World Really Need Another Market?

After NATPE, the Berlinale Series Market and MipTV, all online, did the world really need another drama series market? The answer, for at least a few dozen of the world’s most aggressive international players, is: “Most probably ‘yes.’” As SVOD players seek engagement with clients via fresh releases every week, sales companies need to sustain the intensity of impact of traditional markets throughout the year.

One Industry Obsession: Platforms – What Is Next?

The L.A. Virtual Screenings held a dozen or so online industry panels on its easy to use website. One focused attendees’ minds: The Future of Streaming – What is Next? moderated by Omdia’s María Rua Aguete, which attracted about a quarter of all panel views. Rua Aguete said in five minutes as much as many panelists do in 40. Online viewership growth was “massive” in 2020: up 52% in the U.K., 48% in Brazil, 45% in both Singapore and Australia.  All the growth in the next five years will come from streaming video, up to 1.6 billion subscriptions in 2025 from 1.1 billion in 2020, she added. The consumer appetite for video content is increasing too, with video users averaging 6.5 video services in the U.K. in Nov. 2020, and 4.91 in Germany, 5.83 in France. Hardly surprising, the challenges and opportunities of the streaming revolution provided the main through-line in Virtual Screenings panel discussions.

’Super Indies’ Make the Running – Again

The new OTT world order is also shaping organized TV markets. As a new cadre of studio streamers largely hold back their productions for their own platforms, it was, as at Mipcom and NATPE, largely a new league of “Super Indies” that made much of the running at the L.A. Virtual Screenings. Top 10 VS online booths visited over May 11-18, for instance, were ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS), Brazil’s Globo, Mexico’s Televisa, eOne, Turkey’s Inter Medya, RTVE in Spain, TV France International, Germany’s ZDFE, France’s Ampersand and Sweden’s Eccho Rights. Of these, only VIS has a Hollywood studio affiliation.

L.A. is Becoming More Latino and So Are the L.A. Virtual Screenings

Most-watched shows at the L.A. Virtual Screenings showed a clear Latin American bent. “Once We Were Six,” a glossy Globo period family novela, and revenge killer cop show “Parot,” from VIS, RTVE and Onza, drew most buyers’ views over May 11-18.

Narco drama “The Cartel, The Origin,” from Colombia’s Caracol TV, and betrayed wife melodrama “Si Nos Dejan,” from Mexico’s Televisa, topped ratings on May 19.

The Spanish-Language Build 

Why the Virtual Screenings have gone so Latino is another matter. Their co-organization by Prensario International, an Argentine film-TV industry publication, is one explanation. But bigger picture factors are at work as well. Both Latin American and U.S. Latinx production is building, though at somewhat different paces, says “El Chapo” producer Camila Jiménez, at Fremantle co-owned The Immigrant. Various factors are in play, she adds: “When it comes to Latin America, the realization of the size of the Spanish-speaking audience; the amount of incredible talent and stories capable to appeal to global audiences; and the region’s lower production costs, reducing risk on investment.” Many established companies in Latin America need to stand up to the Turkish telenovela phenom, and consolidate new client bases beyond novela buyers. Latin America is also set for a sharp OTT rise, according to Rua Aguete. Worth $21 billion in 2020, Latin America and Caribbean AVOD, SVOD, and pay TV market will see revenues of $31 billion by 2021. That’s worth fighting for.

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Sherlock: The Russian Chronicles Courtesy of ZDF Enterprises

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

Who’s the most alluring platform of them all? Producers want to make series without giving up total IP. Most SVOD platforms want total IP and a first-run TV window in a series’ domestic territory, which a producer would like to keep. So this week’s Starzplay-Studiocanal deal on “All Those Things We Never Said” marks out Starzplay out as one of the fairest of them all for international producers: A global streamer, yes, but one that does co-produce. It’s also just ramping up its global production portfolio, with “All Those Things…” its first French co-production.

Everybody’s Piling Into IP

In four of the biggest series deals announced by Variety’s E-Show Dailies as the Virtual Screenings unspooled this week, Erik Barmack optioned Petra Hülsmann’s “The Hamburg Series,” a sextet of German romantic novels; Starzplay and Studiocanal announced they co-producing “All Those Things We Never Said,” backed by the Vivendi-owned Canal Plus Group; Beta Film took world sales rights to French crime series “The Island of 30 Coffins”; and ZDF Enterprises acquired rights on “Sherlock: the Russian Chronicles.” All four deals are based on existing IP, “All Those Things…” a novel by France’s most-read living fiction writer Marc Levy, “The Island of 30 Coffins” on “Lupin” author Maurice Leblanc. Everybody is piling into IP, to capitalize on already built fandoms and stand out in an ever more crowded market.

IPs are not the end all of the business. “We always try to balance existing IP, which might be inherently marketable, with an open door for great original ideas. If you don’t you’d miss things like ‘Madmen,’ ‘Nurse Jackie,’ ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,’” says Marc Lorber, Lionsgate senior VP international co-productions and acquisitions. One in four scripted productions are now adaptations, But IPs rep an increasingly important part of business, Ampere Analysis announced in a study presented at the January’s Göteborg Festival, which called IP the Next Frontier.

Only COVID-19 Can Rival the Streaming Revolution for Global Impact

At a brief panel at the Virtual Screenings, Ella Turner and Trang Nguyen at K7 Media, a research consultancy, talked through the lockdown’s impact on non-scripted formats. Three sub-genres have surged in lockdown, they said: Guessing games suitable for family viewing, led by “The Masked Singer” and “I Can See Your Voice”; shows providing participants practical help, such as Belgium’s “Homemade Home” and the U.K.’s “Sort Your Life Out”; formats offering total escapism or a large dose of nostalgia: TBS’ “Go-Big Show.” Though not mentioned by K7 Media, “I’d Do Anything for Love…But I Won’t Do That,” a relationship show come rock concert exec teased by exec producer Meat Loaf at the IYV Studios Formats Festival, might be one other example.