Watch out Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. The barriers to entry for frosh streaming content providers are quite low, so expect more competition in the near future. This morning at a MIPCOM film and TV crossroads keynote, Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Begg’s spoke about the booming trend for streaming and what that means for the creative and marketing sectors of the TV business.
“A (new) streaming service doesn’t need many subscribers to break even if consumers are willing to buy $5 or $10 (monthly) subscriptions. In fact a steaming service is easier to launch than a cable channel, which is labor intensive. Expect big brands to jump in,” predicted Beggs.
While the streaming model, sans ads, enables content creators to tell longer stories versus the traditional network drama series length of 43 minutes; streaming can impact buzz for a series. Gone are the days of the water cooler when everyone would congregate after watching a Sunday night show. With a series such as Orange Is the New Black, several viewers will watch the entire 13 episodes when they are promptly dropped, while others may not, hence the resonance of word of mouth gets broken. “You don’t know how far one viewer is from the other,” said Beggs.
Specifying how Netflix stands out from the networks, Beggs pointed out that the streaming service hones in on content creators who they know click with crowds, i.e. David Fincher, Jenji Kohan. “They’re not taking chances on first time showrunners like a network does,” said Beggs, “They’re buying into a content creator’s success. Netflix would never go into a series being a micro manager. They want to showcase content they know can work.”
Netflix’s commitment to Orange Is The New Black stemmed from the success of Jenji Kohan’s Weeds on the streaming service. If Orange Is The New Black wasn’t on Netflix, “it would have gone to ad-supported cable, but the storytelling would be much different,” said Beggs.
Talking about Lionsgate’s footprint abroad, Beggs emphasized the distributor’s flexibility when working with foreign partners; sometimes they commit to a co-production, other times a license; it just depends on what’a good deal. The goal is to recoup on the series budget deficit. In the wake of the success of Mad Men, the company has assessed material with more of a global eye, rather than what works for stateside auds. “Weeds did well for overseas and Jenji Kohan’s sensibility works around the world,” says Beggs about Liongate’s confidence with Orange Is the New Black abroad. The American ‘war on drugs’ plotlines in Weeds appealed to foreign eyeballs. The session’s moderator, Elsa Keslassy of Deadline‘s sister pub Variety mentioned how Orange Is The New Black is a big hit with French and German viewers.
While Mad Men had a slower trajectory overseas for Lionsgate, the fact that the series is coming to an end, doesn’t mean it’s over for foreign. Markets such as Latin America, the UK, Israel are interested in optioning the Mad Men format, Nurse Jackie too.
Pointing to Lionsgate’s upcoming British soap opera The Royals, which is debuting on E! in March 2015, as an example of what’s prime for foreign viewers, Beggs exclaimed, “Before anything goes out the door, we have to have a feel that it will work internationally.”