- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
From its London headquarters, Fremantle, which oversees more than 40 companies in 20 territories worldwide, has surfed atop the boom in non-English-language series, successfully combining local-language talent with regional and international financing (often from global streamers) to deliver such hits as Danish sci-fi thriller The Rain and Israeli dramedy Shtisel for Netflix; Middle East-set series Baghdad Central and No Man’s Land, both of which stream on Hulu; and My Brilliant Friend and We Are Who We Think We Are, which bowed on HBO and Amazon, respectively, in the U.S.
Ahead of MIPCOM, Andrea Scrosati, the newly-promoted Fremantle Group COO and CEO for Continental Europe, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter‘s European Bureau Chief Scott Roxborough on what’s behind the surge in demand for international TV, how independent producers can compete with deep-pocketed studios, and why he’s a big fan of dubbing.
What are the major factors driving the boom in scripted drama we see worldwide right now?
The boom is not only due to the obvious factors: that there are all these new streamers and direct-to-consumer platforms and to the fact that [during COVID lockdown] people were consuming more content because they were staying home. It’s also because traditional pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters are commissioning more shows because they know they need to create their own slate to make up for the content they’re going to lose, or have already lost, they would have got from the U.S. studios because those guys are going direct to consumer. The big push with Sky Studios on its original productions is a good example of this.
How has the growth in global streamers changed the way you finance and produce shows?
There are a lot of different [financing] models, but to super simplify, you really have two models: you go to a global streamer who pays for everything or you have a local commissioner and you sell to the international market. What’s changed is how important the international component has become. In the past, a U.K. commission would pay 60-70 percent of the budget of a show, with the rest coming from international. Today, those ratios are completely reversed: the international component for a big show needs to be around 70 percent of the total budget.
We will always assume ours is a portfolio business where you have you try to cover the whole spectrum, from very local to truly global productions. But my experience is when you try to categorize it this way, what happens is sometimes what you think is a very local show becomes global because it’s a great show. And sometimes shows designed to be global remain local because they just don’t perform as expected.
Has streaming changed the audience’s appetite for non-English-language series?
What we are experiencing today is audiences are much more willing to search and to start shows, foreign-language shows, and try them out. People in the industry don’t like to mention this but a big reason for this is that the platforms are dubbing. A lot of people in the U.S. watched [Netflix’s Spanish-language series] Money Heist because it was dubbed into English. We produced a show in Denmark, The Rain, for Netflix. It’s a massive success outside of Denmark because it’s dubbed and people watch it in their local language. I grew up in Italy, a country where dubbing is part of the cultural tradition, so I don’t see this as a negative thing.
How can an independent company like Fremantle compete with the likes of Netflix or Apple TV+ for talent?
This is the big question. Because it is all about the talent. A company like ours can provide excellent execution of ideas but, ultimately, if the IP and the talent weren’t there, we’d have nothing to execute. So the whole job is about building a relationship with talent that is mutually satisfactory… . Our offer to talent is: we will invest in your project, in your ideas, we’ll fund the development. We’ll probably even fund the scripts and the packaging. Then we’ll go out and find the right home for the project. And we’ll do this in a partnership where, in success, you will have a significant share of that success. By definition, a platform can’t do that because that’s not how their business model works. In this world, an independent producer needs to show to a talent that it is willing to take a risk on his or her project. That’s what we try to do.
This interview was edited for space and clarity.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day