NBCUniversal's Jeff Wachtel Talks M&A, Netflix at London TV Conference

Adam Olszewski/NBCUniversal
NBCUniversal International Studios president Jeff Wachtel

“You can't be global unless you are local everywhere," he told an annual Royal Television Society event.

Jeff Wachtel, president of NBCUniversal International Studios, said Tuesday that he would love to grow the business of the production arm of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal into non-English-speaking countries via acquisitions.

“You can't be global unless you are local everywhere," he told the Royal Television Society conference in London.

He also said that Sky, which Comcast is looking to acquire in a bidding showdown with 21st Century Fox, was "a very exciting company," but didn't comment on the situation further.

The executive on Tuesday also discussed how Britain has influenced the U.S. in terms of the approach to TV production. "The U.S. has been moving towards the U.K. model for a long time," said Wachtel, adding that a "more bespoke vision" of series and their length has been integrated into the U.S. way of doing business. "We were talking about what happens in episode 100. Nobody talks about that anymore."

Asked about how to make programming with global appeal, Wachtel said character-driven drama can attract a global audience, even when it is made for local audiences.

Streaming giants like Netflix are a "fradversary," he said in a pun about the term "frenemy" that industry folks often use to describe the streamers. "They were very seductive at first,” paid us “incredible amounts” of money for the second release window and have become an enabler of the local for global content strategy, the exec explained. But Netflix also started branding acquired shows as Netflix Originals, he said. "Now, they are for many people moving a little bit more towards the adversary category," Wachtel concluded. Asked if that situation was comparable to Jaws, he quipped: "If the shark fed you first."

Wachtel appeared onstage in a session with Peter Salmon, chief creative officer of Endemol Shine. Salmon said Tuesday that he expects the sale of the production giant to be completed within "a month or two."