Despite Netflix Effect, Foreign Networks Prefer to Wait for Series

Season two of "House of Cards" went out near day-and-date in many international territories.

A new study from IHS shows new series still take nearly three months from U.S. premiere to foreign broadcast.

Last week's Season Two premiere of Netflix' House Of Cards marked the latest in a new phenomenon in the international television business: the near day-and-date release of TV drama series.

The political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright went out simultaneously to Netflix subscribers in the U.S., the U.K. and Ireland, Latin America, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands. Even in non-Netflix territories, such as German-speaking Europe, where 21st Century Fox's pay channel Sky Deutschland holds rights to House of Cards, the series bowed almost day-and-date with the U.S., a move designed to appease the show's rabid global fan base.

But a new study by Britain-based research group IHS suggests the Netflix-style rapid international roll-out remains the exception to the rule. Most U.S. TV series still take months to make their way to international viewers.

On average, the gap between a U.S. scripted series' bow and its international debut is nearly three months, or 84 days to be exact, the report found. In several territories, the gap is even larger: the average time between a U.S. series premiere and its bow in the U.K. was 95 days. In Germany it was 116 days and in France 126 days. The average gap was much smaller in Australia, where U.S. series go out on average just over a month (32 days) after their domestic bow.

“Thanks to social media, the buzz surrounding new TV series goes global very quickly — and some consumers are going to be too impatient to wait for these programs to be available in their country via traditional channels,” said Tim Westcott, a TV analyst at IHS and author of the new report.

“Many distributors are trying to make their new series available more quickly, even investing in foreign language dubs, which are usually paid for by the buyers.… However, our research shows that this approach is still the exception and not the rule, because there are drawbacks to fast-tracking.”

Westcott notes that foreign networks still prefer to wait and see how a new U.S. series performs before committing to schedule it. International networks, particularly the big terrestrial broadcasters, often have few slots available for new shows. “[They] may find it’s against their interest to rush new properties to market if they already have a returning show already on air,” says Westcott.

The IHS study looks at 54 new scripted TV series, both dramas and comedies, that aired on U.S. broadcast and cable networks last year. Of the group, 14 shows remained unsold in the key international territories of the U.K., France, Germany and Australia.

Britain was the biggest buyer of U.S. shows in terms of volume, picking up 35 new series. Australian networks acquired 24 new scripted shows, while German broadcasters picked up 15 and French networks just nine.