As it forges ahead with expansion into Europe, Starzplay is on the hunt for “edgy” returning scripted series of between six and ten episodes and promises all its partners a decent cut of the IP, according to the platform’s strategy head Peter Tortorici.
In his on-demand keynote at Conecta Fiction Friday, the former head of CBS and Telemundo laid out Starzplay’s content requirements as it makes its migration from cable channel to international streaming platform.
The niche player, which has now expanded into 56 countries, is focusing on “adult edgy dramas” as part of its originals commissioning strategy, Tortorici said.
The streamer’s first local language production has already wrapped in Spain – a territory that Tortorici remarked had a “high but not exhaustive level of talent” that enabled the platform to execute its “brand promise.”
Productions in this territory includes “Express” from showrunner Iván Escobar (“Locked Up”) – a co-production between The Mediapro Studio and LatinX premium streamer Pantaya. This focuses on an outbreak of kidnappings around Madrid, which a hostage negotiator, herself a past victim of abduction, has to halt.
“We want buzzworthy, noisy ideas that give an audience the reason to go ‘Wow! What is that and where do I find it?’ and in that process learn more about the channel,” said Tortorici.
He added: “There’s always a call out for shows that are ‘different’ but then these shows end up getting shelved for being ‘too different.’ But when we say we want edgy stuff – we mean it – as you can see in the kinds of things that we are developing, which shows a commitment to this.”
Acknowledging that the niche streamer did not have unlimited funds, Tortorici added that the platform was open to partners sharing in the IP and distribution – a model that Starz has already applied to “Express.”
“We need to be commercially and editorially creative and look at every project on the basis of how can a participant bring value to the table and add flexibility to the model and make this work at the highest possible level of premium content,” he explained.
“That opens the doors for other participants to be involved in our projects whether as co-producers, co-distributors or co-financiers – we want to provide incentives to the talent that works with us,” he added.
Given the challenges involved in creating awareness and gaining subscribers, Tortorici added that the platform was looking for returning series that “have the potential for at least two seasons.”
The executive added that orders would be kept to shorter episodic runs of “between six and 10 episodes” per season – partly to manage the limited talent pool but also to enable Starzplay to ensure that there was enough fresh product on the platform. “It’s also great opportunity for us to create longer-running franchises from this base,” he added.
According to Tortorici, Starzplay is willing to listen to ideas at any stage before they are funded and promises “we will do our best efforts to help get them there.”
In terms of initial submissions, he recommended a fleshed out power point presentation in the first instance, “to get a feel for what the idea is about” and added that the platform would then work with partners to “shape the headlines for each episode and the hook for the second season” – as well as the pilot script.
If the show makes it to series, he added, these development costs would be reimbursed.
The platform hopes to roll out originals into other territories based on its experiences in Spain, with Germany, France and Italy marked as key territories.
“We’re looking for ideas that have a real reason for being in a specific territory that will hit a local audience squarely as something they want to watch, but has the potential to reach something on a global scale,” Tortorici added.