Berlinale: Netflix Europe details scripted strategy

Netflix’s European team discussed its international growth strategy and offered insight into its development process in a packed house of delegates at Berlinale’s Drama Series Days on Wednesday (13 February). 

The team included Kelly Luegenbiehl, VP of international originals in Europe, Turkey and Africa; Rachel Eggebeen, director of content for international originals in Germany; Kai Finke, director of German, Austrian and Swiss acquisitions and co-productions; Damien Couvreur, director of international originals for France; and Diego Avalos, director of international originals in Spain.

Luegenbiehl revealed the team’s intentions to grow its investment in European originals to meet expanding international audiences, which grew by 8.8m subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2018.

“As you can see from our subscriber numbers, we’re continuing to grow internationally. We plan to scale our investment in global series to match that growth. It’s still early days but there is a lot of momentum internally for building out our international series,” she said.

The statement matches earlier reports that Netflix is to increase European titles by a third in 2019.

The roundtable was held shortly after new European series for the platform were announced, including Norwegian horror series Bloodride and two German dramas – one by Deutschland 83 showrunner Anna Winger.

One of the more candid elements of the roundtable saw the execs discuss how they bounce ideas off one another. Despite having defined roles in separate territories, Netflix’s process is deeply collaborative, according to the execs.

“We’ve been working together for a long time, and we’re all friends actually, so what we do if we see a project is pass it back and forth – not just from country to country, but even from our team doing originals, to Kai’s team doing the licensing [and] co-production,” said Luegenbiehl.

“We may see an idea come as a feature and think ‘actually this could live better as a long-running series’ or vice versa. As we’re looking at each piece of material, producer and creative talent, we’re looking at that as an individual thing as well and making sure we’re facilitating that it ends up in the right spot in the right team if it’s got a great story to be told.”

Eggebeen said that the platform has a “flexible” approach to development, whether that’s with the talent it chooses to work with, or how creators choose to implement their vision.

“We value flexibility. We love showrunners. TV is a very collaborative medium and it’s challenging to do multiple episodes. Having the vision of a writer carrying you from idea to the end is a great way to make television. But there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

“We’re bringing the best of Hollywood and building each show individually. Every show is treated differently. Rest assured, each one is different and we approach each one to make the highest quality premium show on the right budget – that’s our goal.”

Other touch points included Netflix’s intention to keep growing its international team; the high sum of titles the platform greenlights day to day; and how the service is working to improve its dubbing process.

The team also noted that Netflix will look for more interactive series following the success of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. “For us it was amazing to see how much joy that created for our members and we’ve clearly seen demand in that space. We are looking for more projects in that space,” said Fink.

Luegenbiehl said that for unscripted and factual projects, producers are better off getting in touch with Netflix’s docs and unscripted teams.

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