Drama data: Europe challenges the US

ncis_1The latest details of the most-watched scripted shows around the world reveal US procedurals are still top of the heap, but now face increasing competition for eyeballs from programming out of the UK, Scandinavia and France. TBI teamed with Eurodata TV to present this new data.

CBS Studios International is the most successful international distributor, according to the TV ratings analysis expert Eurodata TV Worldwide. CBS juggernaut ratings franchises NCIS and CSI remain the shows that, across the leading 15 TV territories around the world, appear most regularly in the rosters of top ten most-watched programmes. Also near the top of the data pile, Disney Media Distribution’s Criminal Minds and Castle continue the dominance of the studios and their ever popular procedurals.

Top_Progs_chartHowever, a closer look at the latest numbers reveal the picture is changing, and series from outside the US are gaining share. BBC Worldwide’s Call the Midwife places fourth and DRG’s Doc Martin fifth. The UK is emerging as an increasingly important source of scripted programming.

“What we have noticed is that American series are still the strongest audience boosters and the ones that bring slot averages up, but the influence of US programming is slowing down after several years of supremeacy,” says Sahar Baghery, international TV research manager at Mediametrie-Eurodata TV Worldwide.

The proportion of top-ranking series has fallen, she adds, from almost 20% a few years ago, to 13% in recent times. Back in 2008, when House was the most-watched international series, the top-performing episode of the medical drama would command an international audience of 82 million. Fast forward to 2012, and the top-performing series was The Mentalist with a peak international audience of 58 million.

The popularity of locally originated drama is increasing fast, even in territories where it does not dominate schedules. For example, domestic series account for 10% of broadcasters’ primetime in Denmark, but 45% of  viewing. In Sweden, local series account for just 7% of primetime, but take 24% of all eyeballs.

Les-Revenants-00131France, meanwhile, is emerging as an increasingly influential territory with Les Revenants (above) going out in its original language on Channel 4 in the UK and Sundance in the US. Political drama Les Hommes de l’Ombre is now selling internationally and being adapted by Endemol Studios for AMC in the US.

CBS with CSI, NCIS and recent hit Under the Dome is the leading distributor in terms of the number of top performing shows. It leads out Warner Bros. International TV Distribution, which has The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist and Persons of Interest. The first non-US ranked distributor is BBC Worldwide, which has fared well with Call the Midwife, DCI Banks and Doctor Who.

Top_Distributors_chartZDF Enterprises ranks highly largely because of the popular Scandinavian drama it coproduces and distributes. Endemol’s push into drama is paying off with the likes of Spanish soap Love is Forever and Death Comes to Pemberley helping it to eleventh in the ranking of leading drama distributors.

Baghery concludes that while their US counterparts still hold sway, European producers and distributors are gaining ground.

“Europe has become a pillar of creativity and differentiation to the US,” she says. “The main strength is as coproducers and when financial and creative assets are combined.”

Sources: Eurodata TV Worldwide/relevant partners. Scripted series barometer – covering September-December 2013. Top 15 best performing scripted series (based on best episode during the period).

The article also referneces the Scripted series report (multiple editions 2010 to 2013) and International Audience Awards (2009-2013).

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