For several international television markets now, the search has been on for the next big unscripted primetime show. That’s still the case, but the drumbeat has softened as significant competition is heating up in the drama space. Sales execs and buyers I’ve spoken to have a hard time pinpointing what the exact story of this Mip-TV will turn out to be, but drama is high on the Riviera.
Says eOne EVP for global production, Carrie Stein, “Drama feels like it is going to explode.” Keshet International CEO Alon Shtruzman agrees, “There is demand for drama and the business model is clear and simple. With drama you can get value beyond a one-time transmission. It has a long shelf life and can be monetized forever so obviously, why not?”
The seemingly endless proliferation of outlets means competition for drama has never been bigger. A buyer says, “People are jumping on projects a lot earlier.” Indeed, they’re moving aggressively — some say too aggressively. Fear of missing out is high. One exec notes, “Buyers say it’s horrible because there is so much coming in the door. The pressure is so intense, people feel they have to hear things immediately.”
Shtruzman tells me regarding unscripted, “The market is normalizing. This is a transition phase for the industry.” Another exec says, “Scripted is in the sunshine and everyone is looking at it as the big thing.” This person adds that given the cyclical nature of the business, the pendulum will swing back to reality. “The trend is just around the corner. I can smell it, I just can’t see it.”
The Nordics are the subject of an official focus here in Cannes and among the major offerings that have people buzzing in the drama space is Follow The Money, a financial crime drama for Denmark’s DR – ie the network that brought the world The Killing and Borgen. Although it won’t air locally until January 1, buyers are lining up. The creative team includes showrunner Jeppe Gjervig Gram along with Anders Frithiof August and Jannik Tai Mosholt. The trio’s collective credits include Borgen and The Legacy.
Acquitted, which is being handled by FremantleMedia International, is another Nordic drama – this time from Norway’s TV2 (see trailer below). The Miso Films production debuted to record-setting ratings and a 38.8 share on TV2 in March. The series follows a man who left his native town after being cleared of the murder of his high school sweetheart. Twenty years later he returns to save the place that once turned its back on him – but the past has not been forgotten.
Also high on the radar is BackUp Films’ Britannia from exec producer Neil Marshall. The English-language series charts the Roman invasion of what would become Great Britain in 43 AD and the rise of iconic female warrior Boudicca.
The Frankenstein Chronicles – in which star Sean Bean is not expected to die in the first season, I am assured – is another series that’s in play from the newly-christened Endemol Shine International. And eOne is introducing Sky horror drama The Enfield Haunting, a three-part supernatural mini starring Timothy Spall and Ripper Street’s Matthew Macfadyen.
Texas Rising, History’s big-scope 10-part miniseries from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America, produced by Thinkfactory Media, is premiering tonight as the opening red carpet presentation. ITV Studios Global Entertainment is handling rights with cast members Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta and Olivier Martinez in town alongside director Roland Joffé.
On the reality side, there is some wariness in the market says Studio Glam’s Ami Glam, whose The Extra Mile is proving a big hit currently in Denmark. Buyers are “always looking for the big Saturday night formats, but I think they will be less brave to take things on in the U.S.”
In what some see as a mini-trend, there is a tendency toward the mining of catalog shows. One international exec suggests “There is a lot of interest in established formats… People are interested to go back and look at what’s core.” Endemol Shine’s Big Brother, for example, has had a resurgence, especially on the UK’s Channel 5.
Among the new unscripted formats making the rounds this market are Keshet’s win-a-car game show Trade Up, which just sold to Romania; Red Arrow International’s Real Men, a hit in Denmark that sees five ordinary guys undergo the ultimate health transformation and has been acquired by Warner Bros International Television Production for Belgium and the Netherlands; and Endemol Shine’s Bullseye which is making its international debut. The challenge sees contestants become human darts as they fly, slide or fall as close as physically possible to a target. Fox has U.S. rights and premieres the show next month.