With TV ratings and ad revenue in the U.S. slipping, pushing down license fees, and the off-network marketplace, especially on the drama side, not as robust as it once was, international sales have become increasingly important for American TV studios. In hopes to lure foreign buyers, the international distribution forces of the major U.S. studios this week hosted representatives of hundreds of terrestrial, cable and digital networks, wining and dining them while giving them first glimpse of their new series.
There had been concerns that the rising quantity and quality of local scripted production could threaten the appetitive for American series abroad but that has not been the case, especially as new distribution platforms enter the marketplace every year.
“We are seeing a very healthy market with the number of companies the same if not greater (than last year),” said Sony TV’s president of distribution Keith LeGoy. Armando Nuñez, President of CBS Studios International, estimated the number of attendees to be around 1,500-1,600, noting that his studio also will hold local screening in six major territories in the coming weeks, something most studios do.
The L.A. Screenings cater to a wide range of buyers who have different needs.
“A lot of major broadcasters come here looking for the perfect procedural show, a big, noisy, eventful procedural drama,” LeGoy said.
In that aspect, Sony TV has been getting buzz for its new broadcast dramas The Good Doctor for ABC, from David Shore, creator of one of the biggest global hits of the past decade, House; and S.W.A.T. for CBS.
“The broadcasters are looking for the next NCIS, CSI, Hawaii Five-0, a big broad procedural, which is a genre CBS is known for,” Nuñez said.
From CBS Studios International, the SEAL Team military drama and crime series Instinct are checking the procedural box, with new comedy 9JKL, doing well for multi-camera sitcom, a genre which doesn’t travel very well internationally. All three series are for CBS.
One the few multi-camera comedy series that has done very well globally is The Big Bang Theory. Now its single-camera prequel, Young Sheldon for CBS, is making waves for Warner Bros. TV at LA Screenings. Also doing well for the studio is romantic comedy Splitting Up Together and magic-themed crime procedural Deception, both for ABC.
In the premium space, Sony TV saw interest for the upcoming Philip K. Dick Amazon drama Electric Dreams and crime thriller Absentia for Sony Pictures TV Networks’ AXN. Meanwhile, CBS Studios International didn’t have much premium content to sell as most of Showtime’s series already are locked into distribution deals. Still, the studio held a screening of the new Twin Peaks because of the original’s global popularity, and showed the trailer for CBS All Access’ Star Trek: Discovery, which has an international distribution deal with Netflix.
Twentieth Century Fox Television has the provocative new medical drama procedural The Resident, which garnered interest from broadcasters, and the serialized Marvel drama The Gifted, which appealed more to SVOD/premium buyers. Additionally, the supernatural X-Files-esque single-camera comedy Ghosted did well, I hear. All three series are for Fox.
Universal TV also has one of each types of drama getting attention, the more procedural military drama The Brave and serialized high school series Rise, both for NBC.
It was a big year for military dramas at the broadcast networks and all seem to be well received by international buyers.
Marvel also has been popular at the 2017 LA Screenings. In addition to The Gifted, two new Marvel dramas from ABC Studios are getting buzz, Inhumans for ABC, which is getting a theatrical launch on IMAX screens, and Cloak and Dagger for Freeform. Also high on buyers’ radars are the new Shondaland legal drama For the People and the sci-fi immigrant drama The Crossing, both for ABC.
While U.S. series’ profit margins are shrinking because of the rising costs and sliding license fees/off-network sales, international executives say that they don’t feel extra pressure, even with the overall volume of new broadcast series available to sell a little down this year as more shows were renewed.
But, because international sales are so important, global appeal is something the networks factor in early in the development process.
“Global services have emerged, so there is an increasing perspective of what would do well for a larger audience outside of the U.S., said Gina Brogi, president of Twentieth TV’s global distribution. “We are looking for shows with storylines that have more of a world view.”