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As the streaming wars heat up, the future of TV is now decidedly global.
The boom in international programming that's engulfing the small screen began, of course, with Netflix. With 50 percent more subscribers outside the U.S. (98 million) than within it (61 million), the streaming giant is ordering almost as many new series from abroad as it is stateside. In Europe alone the streamer has significantly increased the number of productions this year, with 221 projects — including 153 originals — in the works, representing a more than 50 percent increase on 2018.
This has led to a global arms race to secure talent, which in turn has translated into major career boosts — and windfalls — for creators of content overseas. And while international showrunners may not be seeing the paydays of a Ryan Murphy ($300 million from Netflix) or Greg Berlanti ($400 million to stay at Warner Bros. TV), they are nevertheless signing deals worth far more than just five years ago, when most would have had to settle for toiling in semi-obscurity on local terrestrial broadcasters. Amazon signed a $60 million deal with British Emmy darling Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Killing Eve); Netflix has inked multiyear development agreements with the likes of Spanish showrunner Álex Pina (Money Heist) and German duo Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar (Dark); and Apple TV+ shelled out big to secure top Brit talents like Steven Knight (for the postapocalyptic drama See) and Neil Cross (for lit adaptation The Mosquito Coast).
Accolades, too, have followed, both at the International Emmys — Money Heist won best drama last year, while India's Sacred Games competes in the category this year — and at the U.S. Emmys, which this year included some 40 nominations for shows created outside the U.S.
But things are still far from equal among writers in the U.S. and abroad. International showrunners typically have weak or nonexistent writers unions, less aggressive (and less powerful) agents in their corner and a production model that favors full broadcaster buyouts with zero backend. American-style writers rooms are still the exception worldwide — most of the talents on THR's inaugural list of top international showrunners write every single script for every show they make. Head writers and creators who earn full producer credits on their shows — the American definition of a showrunner — remain a rare breed internationally.
With global players pushing budgets ever higher — some of the Marvel TV series on Disney+ will cost as much as $25 million an episode — regional showrunners worry how they will compete by "making HBO-style shows on a BBC 4 budget" and how they can keep their below-the-line talent from jumping ship to the next Netflix, Amazon or Apple series that comes calling. "We're running out of people," moans one Brit writer-producer.
But the cosmopolitan scribes on THR's list — which was compiled based on input from producers, acquisition execs and content creators around the world — still feel confident television's global push will deliver more diverse, compelling and surprising TV as Hollywood finally broadens its horizons.
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