The European heads of Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and Paramount+ have talked up their autonomy from the U.S., with Amazon Studios Europe boss Georgia Brown stating: “In my head we’re a European streamer.”
Speaking during a Berlinale Series panel, Brown said the local teams she has assembled after a “challenging” hiring period are completely distinct from the U.S. operation, as Amazon gears up to roll out several European dramas over the coming year.
Brown used the example of the German division’s adaptation of Wolfgang Hohlbein’s The Gryphon as proof that the streamer in Europe is making “elevated shows that can sit alongside U.S. juggernauts like The Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings.”
“It’s alien for me to hear people say ‘The Americans have commissioned this’ because we’ve always been doing these things on the ground,” she said. “Years ago people would look to the Americans to make The Gryphon but it shows how far we’ve come that we’re doing this in Europe.
“In my head, we’re not an American streaming service, we’re a European streamer.”
While big scripted plays are to come, Brown pointed to Amazon’s non-scripted offerings such as LOL: Last One Laughing as having defined her division over the past couple of years. “When we first started, people expected us to make big scripted shows but they take time, so we’ve come up with non-scripted in the meantime, applying scripted techniques to that genre,” she said.
Her local teams take a “holistic” approach, added Brown, using marketing and social media to promote these shows beyond the Amazon platform.
Christina Sulebakk, General Manager of HBO Max in EMEA, which is gearing up to launch in 15 more European countries this year, said the focus in each territory is distinctly local, as owner WarnerMedia targets “new expertise in markets with local hubs, local curation and local investment in production.”
“We’re not providing stories that will potentially be mega hits in other markets but are leaning into the narratives of the original country,” she added. “If we try and be something for everyone we won’t be for anyone.”
Sulebakk did, however, stress the opportunity for shows to perform well across markets, citing the success rate of Spanish content in Latin America and Scandinavian shows in Central and Eastern Europe.
She said HBO Max needs to communicate to European audiences that the streamer is “more than just HBO,” as it features content from Warner Bros and DC, plus third-party acquisitions.
For Sabine Anger, ViacomCBS SVP Streaming Central & Northern Europe, having in-house production arm Viacom International Studios plus two streamers in Paramount+ and Pluto and soon-to-launch Comcast JV SkyShowtime provides the perfect mechanism for distribution of premium content.
“All these different services will allow consumers to see new content and new genres will develop through cross-cultural mixing, which is thrilling,” said Anger, who said ViacomCBS is “leveraging local talent” both on-screen and also off-screen such as directors and writers.
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