Happy Friday International Insiders. Tom Grater here coming to you live from the San Sebastian Film Festival with the week’s top international news. To get this sent to your inbox every Friday, sign up here.
A Royal Affair
On the block: One subject above all others dominated this week’s Royal Television Society Convention: the potential sale of iconic UK broadcaster Channel 4. Everyone had an opinion on the sale of The Great British Bake Off, Gogglebox and It’s A Sin channel. Or they tied themselves in knots trying not to have one. The government made its position clear late on Tuesday night with a press release from DCMS and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden laying out the reasons why the Conservatives want privatization. Dowden was meant to deliver a keynote on the subject later that day, however he got the chop as part of Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. His speech was instead delivered by arch Brexiter and privatization champion John Whittingdale, who hours later would himself get the chop. It was all somewhat comical. Not many at the conference were laughing, however, when they found out that Dowden’s successor would be BBC critic and “snowflake” scourge Nadine Dorries. You can check out the Government’s speech on the subject here. And C4 CEO Alex Mahon’s riposte here. New Sky CEO Dana Strong was asked whether Comcast could be interested in acquiring the broadcaster. Here is her response.
Defining Britishness: Another talking point to come out of the conference was the UK government’s new plan to introduce requirements for public service broadcasters (PSBs) to produce “distinctively British” content and for all platforms to prominently carry PSB content. Whittingdale said the move will ensure the UK continues to be a creative powerhouse for high-quality TV shows in the face of growing competition from U.S. streamers. Proposals for the measures will be included in a Broadcasting White Paper to be published this autumn. You can read more about the plans here.
American view: The event also served up some heavy hitters from across the pond. Among highlights away from a distinctly British and politicized event, were Hillary and Chelsea Clinton discussing plans for their HiddenLight Productions banner, and former Disney bigwig Kevin Mayer teasing further acquisitions for his unnamed Blackstone-backed media company, which recently splashed out on Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine and which is in talks to buy Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Westbrook.
Piers Morgan Homecoming
Landing spot: Another topic much discussed during the RTS conference this year was what the future holds for two of the UK’s most valued (and often controversial) broadcasters: Piers Morgan and Andrew Neil, both of whom were free agents. No news on Neil yet, but Morgan has found his new home (or his new, old home) at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Media. The presenter and former newspaper editor, who acrimoniously left ITV earlier this year after storming off Good Morning Britain when challenged about comments he made regarding Meghan Markle’s mental health, has signed an overall deal at the company that will see him take on a range of responsibilities.
Talk is cheap: One of those responsibilities will be as the host of a ‘global show’ on talkTV, the new channel being launched by Murdoch’s News UK in 2022. The channel is viewed as a direct competitor to the beleaguered News UK, which saw star attraction Neil resign not long after launching the network as its face. Could Morgan and Neil team up at talkTV? Time will tell.
Netflix’s World View
Global growth: Netflix has made no secret of the fact it sees the vast majority of its potential growth as coming from international markets, with subscriber numbers having reached relative ceilings in English-speaking territories. CEO Reed Hastings is presently on a tour of the company’s international bases, visiting Turkey and Germany this week before heading to India. Stopping off in Berlin, he officially opened the company’s new German HQ, greeting local employees and holding a Q&A. “Producing content that Germans thrive on and spread around the world is such an opportunity,” the exec said, adding that the international proliferation of local language content continued to be “the really special thing about Netflix”. Hastings also visited the set of high-profile series 1899, which comes from the creators of Dark, describing the virtual production facility being used for the show as “the most advanced production technology in the world”. Also this week, Netflix signed a deal with Unorthodox creator Anna Winger, who was at the Berlin event.
Over in Spain: San Sebastian Film Festival gets underway today, and to mark the occasion Deadline sat down with Netflix’s two top content executives in the country – Diego Avalos, who oversees TV, and Teresa Moneo, who looks after film. In a wide-ranging chat, we discuss their strategy in the key European market, which also acts as a content bridge to Latin America. Netflix opened its first European production hub in Spain back in 2018, and the streamer is now doubling the number of sound stages at its Madrid site as it continues to ramp up international content. Go deeper.
Commitment To Change
Legacy: Anna Serner is leaving the Swedish Film Institute after spending a decade in the role that saw her become a high-profile figure in the 50/50 by 2020 and #MeToo debates. Diana sat down with the respected executive to reflect on her tenure. Read our latest International Disruptors feature here.
Latest From Afghanistan
Special report: Veteran foreign affairs correspondent Hollie McKay was back this week with another dispatch from Kabul as the Taliban continue to turn the screw on the city. As per usual, it’s well worth a read.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Universal won the race for Christopher Nolan’s next movie, about J. Robert Oppenheimer and his role in the development of the atom bomb.
🌶️ Another one: Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments actor Dominic Sherwood is starring in a Warner Bros reboot of its 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger action pic Eraser.
🤝 Done deals: Streaming service ChaiFlicks has acquired North American rights to three Israeli series from Shtisel and Fauda outfit Yes Studios. Anton has taken a stake in Benedict Cumberbatch’s production banner SunnyMarch.
🍿 International box office: Lots going on in box office this week. Dune had a stellar first day in France as the movie begins its international roll out. Read Nancy’s full preview for this week’s session here. Nancy also penned an intriguing analysis piece, which projects that the global box office is set to hit $20.2B in 2021, 68% up on 2020.
🚚 On the move: Cameron Roach, Sky’s outgoing director of drama, is launching Rope Ladder Fiction, a Manchester-based indie production company.
🏆 Awards circuit: Germany has selected I’m Your Man as its International Oscar entry this year.
🎦 Trailer watch: Check out first footage from The Noise Of Engines ahead of its San Sebastian premiere.
Low number: One interesting tidbit from our closing Venice coverage, the fest only returned three positive results from a total of 4,500 Covid tests across its duration. Earlier this year, Cannes was averaging three a day for much of the fest, so the numbers seem reassuring. Are these events getting their protocols right? Read Andreas’ scoop.
Andreas Wiseman contributed to this week’s International Insider.
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