Conecta Fiction and Virtual Screenings 2021 brought together European public broadcasters for an online presentation on Tuesday that attempted to capture the alliances and challenges of the European public broadcasters, among Europe’s biggest and most active TV companies.
“We are aware that the past and the future is based on partnership,” said Maria Pia Ammirati, head of Rai Fiction in Italy. “We know that to make the best use of our resources and work within a European vision we must share the aspirations and also the problems of the European community.”
With the likes of Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney Plus spending big money on high-end drama series, European pubcasters have turned to a co-publishing model to compete. Launched in 2018 by France Televisions, Germany ZDF and Italy’s RAI, The Alliance allows the production investment burden to be spread across broadcasters who then control windows for the content in their home territory.
With the buzz of “Around the World in 80 Days,” set to word premiere at Canneseries, and success of “Leonardo,” the model bears expanding, the panelists said.
“To do such big projects, you are not able to do it standalone as one broadcaster, you can’t afford it. But if you join forces then you can make these projects happen,” said Simone Emmelius, SVP of international fiction – co-production & acquisition at ZDF in Germany.
The European pubcaster development landscape is not without its share of challenges however, as Amalia Martínez de Velasco, general content director at RTVE (Spain) made clear. “The biggest challenge we share…is the fact that audiences want to consume the content wherever they want whenever they want,” she said. “If traditionally the public broadcasters have been strong in the linear environment, now we need to adapt to these new forms of consumption.”
One way public broadcasters have worked to stay relevant is through the use of data – for example, the German broadcasters have shared collective audience research for the last 40 years, providing each with a more accurate measure of impact. “You know what your program is worth,” said Emmelius. Moreover, she explained that this data is clustered into “content communities” to get a better feeling with respect to development on who their audiences really are.
Audiences shift and change, according to Manuel Alduy, head of cinema and international development at France Télévisions, who spoke about a nuanced approach to audience capture. “Our challenge is to reduce the generational divide,” he said. “Because we don’t want to switch entirely to a younger audience which is not accustomed to us, and we don’t want to lose our legacy audience. It’s a tricky situation.”
Still, the members of the Alliance are optimistic and seem well positioned to compete with the global streamers. With five series already produced or in production, 10 green lit, and 15-20 in total in development, they show no signs of slowing down.
The panelists finished their discussion giving advice to producers interested in bringing their projects to the Alliance. “The best way to bring a project to us is to target one of us,” said Emmelius. “So, for instance in the German market, we at ZDF probably have the best network. In the French market, it’s France Televisions.
She added. “If we decide that it’s a project we want to do…then the one who brought the project to the Alliance is also the link to the producer, so there’s a one-to-one information connection with the production company.”