TBI Weekly: Five takeaways from NEM Zagreb

From Netflix’s treatment of non-English language dramas to the potential problem of over-production in the Nordics, the topics at NEM Zagreb this week were many and varied. TBI picks out five trends which emerged from the array of international producers, distributors and broadcasters in Croatia this week.

Diluting the brand

Borgen

Scripted product out of the Nordics has proliferated over the past five years, partly built on the much-discussed success of Nordic noir and the foundations that shows such as Borgen set down in terms of viewer expectations. However talk in Zagreb turned to whether the Nordic drama brand was now becoming over exploited, as companies such as Viaplay look to produce ever increasing amounts of content from the region. Marike Muselaers, co-CEO at Lumière Group, said there was now a danger that the allure of Nordic drama was being “diluted” as originals from the region soared in number, with a potential impact on quality. For Muselaers and Lumiere, which has been behind shows such as The Bridge and Spring Tide, the competition for Nordic drama has also meant a widening of the horizons, with the Benelux firm recently moving into Brazilian and Ukrainian dramas.

Glocal thinking

Frank Spotnitz

Tapping into the international demand for shows that tackle intensely local stories was a regular topic of discussion here in Zagreb. In his keynote addressRansom creator and Big Light Productions CEO Frank Spotnitz argued that non-English language drama was now accepted by many viewers around the world. The man behind forthcoming drama Leonardo – ordered by European pubcasters Rai, ZDF and France Télévisions – added that he had three shows in the works that were French-language, and he said “wouldn’t be afraid to do shows in whatever language is most appropriate – and that is a big change.” Danna Stern, managing director at Israel’s Yes Studios, however, suggested that producing in languages such as Hebrew remained an obstacle for series to become globally successful. Klaus Zimmerman, managing partner at Dynamic Television, pointed to the ways that producers could balance local stories with international expertise. His Icelandic show Trapped was kept “totally authentic” but used local writers alongside UK, French and Germans to take the “rhythm and the structure” expected by global audiences into account. “It was super local but behind the scenes, it was very international.”

Dubbing down Netflix drama

Delegates in Zagreb were privy to the world premiere for the trailer of the third season of Fauda, the Israeli show from Tel Aviv-based Yes Studios that has become a global hit via Netflix. Stern, managing director at the producer, admitted that she had initially had deep reservations about the way the show was dubbed, particularly because the language was such a key aspect of the series. Despite this, it has become a major hit for the world’s biggest streamer – and is another marker in the incredible array of Israeli shows to have broken out onto the global stage, largely powered by an intense focus on development and tapping into local stories that can translate internationally. Sales of Fauda as a scripted format only underline that further, with recent deals in countries such as India.

Linear’s lengthy tail

Harold Gronenthal

Harold Gronenthal, EVP of programming & marketing at AMC Networks International, was also in town to address his company’s global strategy. Talking to TBI, Gronenthal said that AMC would continue to offer numerous streamers such as thriller-skewing Shudder and UK-drama focused Acorn TV, rather than combining offerings into a single entity that offers the entire gamut of programming.

“People will go to those options and choose to exit and enter as they will. There is more capacity for more options that are curated, and that’s what we have with Acorn and Shudder, they are services that are truly curated by people who know and love those genres, and creating that package of content is very attractive to people. There is plenty of room for growth and it’s a good strategy that aligns with our strengths.”

Linear remains a key part of the plan, however, Gronenthal added. “Channels are still vital and they are doing well, but of course that isn’t to say SVOD and direct-to-consumer isn’t looming. But linear is pretty strong in the rest of world, still. It’s about focusing on what we do well – and that is distinctive quality programming that is on brand. We need to push that against the various and sundry platforms coming.”

Global is the new normal

Jaroslaw Burdek

Polish public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP) was also in Zagreb on the look-out for projects that it could remake locally or co-produce with international partners. The broadcaster has launched an international co-production division, which will work with its array of channels including flagships TVP1 and TVP2 to curate programming with global partners.

Jaroslaw Burdek, TVP’s head of international co-productions and formats, told TBI that the new division was looking to leverage its local expertise globally and already had 10 scripted projects in the works. “We are looking for partners in two main ways: firstly, we are searching for projects created internationally that we can try to adapt for our local audience, which we will co-produce with the creators.

“Secondly, we are developing our own projects and we want to go with them worldwide and present them to the global market. We believe we can have international partners on many of our own ideas.”

Burdek said it would be “crucial” for co-produced shows to have a local component, but said TVP could be flexible in how that was interpreted. “It could be the cast, or there could be scenes shot in our partner’s country perhaps or there could be an element of the story based in the co-operating country,” he continued. “Everybody believes that now is the time for global thinking.”

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