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Original content and diversity were in focus on Monday, the first day of the Edinburgh TV Festival, with executives from Netflix U.K. and Walt Disney Europe discussing their strategies.
London-based Liam Keelan, Disney Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) vp original content, said he and his team members are “focused on getting shows that really have a particular feel” and are “feeling different” when evaluating original fare.
With a current focus on the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain, he said he is looking for scripted and unscripted ideas with a target of reaching up to 50 originals a year by 2024. “So there is a lot going on,” Keelan said.
Asked about the early success of Disney+, the executive said: “It is one of the few benefits of COVID, because we really had that captive audience.” Keelan added that the idea in Europe, just like elsewhere, is to make Disney+ “a bit of a one-stop-shop” that has “got something for everyone.”
Earlier on Monday, Netflix U.K. top executives told the Edinburgh TV Festival about the streaming giant’s diversity push. Anne Mensah, vp original series, and Fiona Lamptey, director of U.K. features, said their strategy was focused on showing rather than telling. Instead of talking about it, the company wanted to concentrate on ensuring diversity of financial and creative decision makers, Mensah said.
“The thing that people aren’t really cracking necessarily, but that we are really leaning into is actually making sure we have diversity in our creators,” she said. “I have been commissioning long enough to know that the systemic problems in the industry surround us all.” She concluded by saying: “Hopefully, the change will be onscreen in the next year, two years.”
Lamptey added that her approach was also to “just do it.” She explained: “If I can help five people, that is what I will do. If you help those five people, they can reach out to their networks.”
Asked about their content sensibilities and global versus local focus, both Netflix executives said they were concentrating on strong content that serves a range of audiences. “It’s all about variety,” said Mensah, who also noted the streamer had tripled its U.K. content output. “We are just looking for things people love. … You need lots of pieces that please people.”
She added that “the joy of Netflix is that we make the choices here in the U.K.,” but with a chance to reach a global fanbase. “Distinctiveness” is key, she highlighted.
Asked if Netflix was looking to seal deals with big-name content creators in Britain, Lamptey said it was not pursuing a “snatch and grab” strategy for talent.
Lamptey answered a question on Netflix’s thinking about screening movies in cinemas. “We are very open with filmmakers,” she said, noting that movies are funded through subscribers, but “some films call for a theatrical release.”
Mensah was asked about the perception that Netflix was a threat to traditional industry players. “We do a lot of co-productions with the [public service broadcasters],” Mensah said. “The BBC is on a roll right now. I love their shows. Why wouldn’t we work with them?” And she added: “It’s about building a strong commissioning team in the U.K. that cares about the U.K. landscape.”
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