Telcos & Netflix disrupting business models amid scripted evolution

Danna Stern

Telcos and Netflix are disrupting scripted production models and the dominance of US studios, with the global streamer increasingly open to more flexible rights deals, according to speakers here at NEM Dubrovnik.

Netflix has been hit by declining subscriber numbers, followed by a 68% decline in its share price this year to date, but the streamer was already adapting its rights demands as it looked to control costs.

Danna Stern, who left her role as MD at Fauda producer Yes Studios in Feburary, said that Netflix’s deal for multi-generation drama Beauty Queen Of Jerusalem showed how the SVOD is now adapting its global rights model.

Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

The show, produced by Yes TV and Artza Productions, was picked up in select countries including the US, UK, France and Spain, highlighting an evolution of once inflexible rights demands.

“It was my fifth series with Netflix but the first time they chose the territories – they said this is something new they are going to try and it does seem there is certainly conversations to be had,” Stern said, with the SVOD picking countries where Israeli dramas had previously popped.

The former Yes Studios chief, who has been behind hits ranging from Your Honor, Shtisel and On The Spectrum, added that the deal – struck at “the tail end of last year” – allowed Yes to sell it elsewhere while also ensuring more brand recognition via Netflix.

Daria Leygonie-Fialko, producer & founder at Ukraine firm Space, said the balance between getting a Netflix or Amazon deal was always balanced with “how to get exposure on the deal.”

The company is currently working on documentaries exploring the country’s invasion by Russia and Leygonie-Fialko added that financing issues for Space include finding new partners. Many previous coproductions were with firms from Russia.

Telco challenge

Stern added that while Yes Studios’ telco backing had helped her former company’s studio growth, it was not always easy to persuade investment in the creative and riskier world of production.

Maria Valenzuela

“It can sometimes be hard to persuade the board on what we’re doing – production is an uncertain business. You need people there who understand this is a different type of business, it’s not a switch you can just turn on.”

Maria Valenzuela, GM at the international division of Spain’s Movistar Plus+, said that investment from parent telco giant Telefonica had “opened up” huge opportunities for Spanish creativity.

The division has already been behind hits such as The Pier, from Money Heist creators Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato, as well as Mira Lo Que Has Hecho and The Plague, and Valenzuela said the telco backing  “suddenly put us in a different league”.

She added: “For us it has been a complete gamechanger, we are not seen as just a platform but as a part of Spanish culture.”

It has also ensured a more diverse array of shows for viewers, Valenzeula said, while streamers were continuing to prove “very much disruptive” to bigger studios. “It is a great opportunity for creativity and for learning, sharing content and finding other types of creativity other than the archetypal stuff.”

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