English-language drama replaced by local originals as demand ramps up

Peter Kolosi

English-language drama is increasingly being replaced by local-language scripted series as demand for domestic content soars, according to a panel here at NEM Dubrovnik.

The growing importance of scripted originals was outlined in successive sessions, with RTL Hungary’s deputy CEO & director of programming Peter Kolosi outlining how his company is now looking to produce five dramas annually.

Petr Gottwald, VP of program planning & scheduling at HBO Europe, added that his company is also focusing more attention on originals while dubbing WarnerMedia library shows such as Friends into local languages.

That is providing a unique difference to some global streamers and Katarina Pavloc, program director at Serbia’s Prva TV & B92, and TV Slovenia editor Natalija Gorscak, added that the interest in domestic shows was only growing.

Revolutionary times

Frank Spotnitz, CEO at Big Light Productions and the man behind Amazon and Rai’s Leonardo, followed up in a subsequent session to highlight the “diversity of topics” being explored.

“It’s easy not to recognise just what a revolutionary time we are living in. There is more storytelling reaching other cultures than ever, you’re seeing local language competing with English-language and that is radical – five years ago you’d have looked at me and said I’m crazy. That change has enormous cultural impact.”

Spotnitz, who was also behind Medici for Netflix and Rai in Italy, added that he expected the trend to continue, with increased focus on local language drama.

“More and more you’ll see less English-language in Italy, for example – and that is because people want to see the Italian language or French language, and so much the better.”

Vlad Riashyn, president of Star Media, added that his experiences of producing English-language dramas had been challenging and added that the focus now was on producing high quality localised series.

Frank Spotnitz

“We produced Mata Hari [for Channel One in Russia], which wa sshot in English and shot in Portugal,” he explained. The show had Russian scriptwriters but Riashyn said it was “not successful” because of the myriad of converging cultures and issues such as English spoken with slightly different accents.

“After we finished we spoke with US and European buyers and they’d say, “great quality but not for us, it’s your Russian view on this topic.”

The upshot, Riashyn says, is that the company moved onto subjects it new intimately with its recent shows including Canal+ Poland and public broadcaster Czech Television’s The Pleasure Principle, and Silence, a thriller produced with Croatia’s Drugi Plan and Germany’s Beta Film. “That story happens very organically in Russia and Croatia,” he adds.

All3Media International’s Louise Pedersen added that the demand for non English-language series had soared risen especially through the pandemic and that, from the distribution side, her company is keen to get involved.

“Local content goes global and buyers don’t say, “we won’t look at that because it comes from Croatia”. Last year we saw the big US pay-tv and cable networks actively looking for non-English shows and that’s partly because Netflix and Amazon have opened the door and people’s minds a bit.”

Read Next