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Call it the Squid Game effect. The Korean dystopian drama, which has become Netflix’s biggest-ever original launch, reaching 111 million viewers worldwide, according to the streamer’s own figures, is the clearest example yet of the global television trend toward local-language and non-English-language programming.
Last year, there were 72 new, non-English-language series launched on global streamers, a 55 percent jump over 2019, according to Mediametrie, a French-based television research group, which presented its most recent findings at MIPCOM this year. Alongside Squid Game, recent non-U.S. and non-U.K. Netflix hits have included the likes of crime thriller Lupin from France and teen drama Elite from Spain.
Across Europe, still the largest international television market, there is a shift away from U.S. imports toward more homegrown fare, a trend that has been intensified by Hollywood giants, including Disney, WarnerMedia and ViacomCBS, which are pulling back their top films and series from partner broadcasters internationally to put on their own in-house streaming services.
“Our goal is to repatriate that content and bring it back home. We build these brands and we want to leverage them to ourselves, rather than other platforms,” said Doug Craig, senior vp content strategy for ViacomCBS Networks international’s streaming division, in a MIPCOM keynote talk on strategy at Paramount+, the studio’s new streaming platform. Currently in 25 markets, Paramount+ is set to launch in 45 additional territories in 2022, including a rollout across Europe.
Surveying television programming, excluding global streamers, across 11 major European territories, Mediametrie found the bulk of shows — some 61 percent — were local, with only 35 percent imported. Viewing times were even more skewed, with local programming accounting for fully 70 percent of viewing, with just 5 percent allotted to imported series. While the global streamers are becoming more international, international networks are becoming more and more local.
“For local producers, the aim now is to build a local hit and then to sell the format internationally for adaptations,” noted Mediametrie vp Frédéric Vaulpré.
The next Squid Game may be among the offerings at this year’s MIPCOM, which featured its most cosmopolitan and diverse slate of shows ever. The Grand Family, a family epic from Japan’s Wowow, based on a book by Toyoko Yamasaki, took the 2021 Mipcom Buyers’ Award as the series most likely to connect with international audiences.
At CanneSeries, the international television festival that runs alongside MIPCOM, Mister 8, a black-and-white Finnish comedy about a female CEO who has different lovers for every day of the week, won the top prize for best series. Other standouts included German crime drama The Allegation; Norwegian fish-out-of-water comedy Countrymen; and Awake, a dark police comedy from Serbia.
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