Disney+ moves into soap operas & eyes ‘commercial chic’ shows

Becoming Karl Lagerfeld (Source: Disney)

Disney+ is moving into soap operas with a 70-episode scripted series out of Spain amongst a clutch of originals unveiled by the streamer here at Series Mania.

Return To Las Sabinas is being produced by Banijay’s Diagonal TV and is part of Disney+’s attempt to pre-empt shifts to streaming by viewers, according to Sofia Fabregas, VP of originals for Spain.

“We thought we’d try to explore the future – how will TV be in three, five or seven years? We we want to be there and we want to be there first.

Liam Keelan

“We thought it was necessary to develop a soap opera. Return To Las Sabinas will run with a new episode each day, Monday to Friday.

“This is a very innovative move to launching content, nobody else is doing it. And this is part of our job, not only pushing storytelling far away with new talent but also thinking what else we can offer to subscribers.”

Disney+, whose Spanish slate includes shows such as Becoming Karl Lagerfeld, also revealed true crime series Lucrecia: A Murder In Madrid, which will explore the racist murder of Lucrecia Pérezs in 1992.

The streamer also detailed new French original Lost Station Girls, which is being produced by Oussekine firm Itinéraire Productions, and comedy Vienna Game, which is from Satel Film.

The latter will explore the party-like environment that enveloped discussions following the downfall of Napoleon.

The shows were unveiled on the second day of Series Mania Forum here in Lille, where Liam Keelan, SVP of originals at Disney+ EMEA, detailed how the streamer is looking to continue its efforts to shift perceptions of Disney output three years on from launch.

“[The service] has evolved. I still consider Disney+ a nascent service but the strategy at the outset was to complement the great shows we were getting from the US with equally great shows from Europe.


“The execution and seeing the shows coming through is where you see things changing, one of the primary aims was to change expectations of what Disney is.

“We need to reach that bar [of US quality] and show the audience here that we are not only doing what they consider family entertainment – of course we have great shows in that genre but general adult entertainment is where we need to be.

“Content we get from the US will only take us so far no matter how good it is, you have to get audiences in individual markets to love the service. You have to make people want to subscribe and that only comes from great local content.”

Kevin Deysson, director of originals for Disney+ in France, said he was looking for “commercial chic” shows, highlighting its 13-strong slate of shows to date and a need for “mainstream shows based on IP or easy pitchable concepts.”

Benjamina Mirnik-Voges, VP of originals at Disney+ in DACH, pointed to supernatural thriller Pauline as a key series for her region.

The commissions come as Disney remains on the look-out for a new EMEA streaming boss after Luke Bradley-Jones revealed he would be stepping down.

His exit comes amid deep cuts at Disney, which has seen the US studio trimming both staff and content as it seeks to improve profits from its streaming operations.

Earlier this month, Disney+ pulled more than 120 titles across both series and movies from its service in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, following an initial cull last year when shows such as The World According To Jeff Goldblum, Dollface and Willow were among titles to go.

Others, such as Nautilus and The Spiderwick Chronicles, never reached Disney+ as the streamer dropped them from the slate in its bid to cut costs.

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