Afternoon subscribers. Max Goldbart here with your weekly dose of International Insider news and analysis and it’s been as busy as ever over the past seven days. Scroll down for more.
Of Paramount Importance
Via-Who? ViacomCBS is no more. Paramount (or Paramount Global to be precise) is here and streaming is the name of the game. This week’s investor day set out a new path for the recently-merged outfit, with SVoD Paramount+ being positioned as almost entirely responsible for the planned growth. And there was plenty for the international world to pay attention to following Deadline U.S.’s expert coverage.
Canal+ ties: Paramount+ has been rolling out to dozens of global territories over the past year and more are incoming. Amongst a barrage of investor day announcements, CEO Bob Bakish unveiled a tie-up with France’s Canal+, which will see Paramount+ enter France as an offering to all Canal+ Ciné Séries subscribers. Bakish described the partnership as a “hard bundle” (what will they think of next?) and the move is reflective of one of the roles ViacomCBS (Paramount, sorry) wants the streamer to play: striking territory deals that allow it to make distribution inroads into the nations it deems most important. Canal+, which is well placed to take advantage of this type of deal, has struck similar partnerships with U.S. media companies in the recent past, including Disney in 2019 around the launch of Disney+.
(International) content is king: That old Sumner Redstone favorite. Tom Cruise and Shari Redstone were present as Paramount revealed it will triple spend on streaming content to $6BN by 2024. The first shows to come from outside the U.S. include Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of A Gentleman in Moscow and a remake of cult classic Sexy Beast from Sopranos showrunner Michael Caleo. Neat. Then there’s Germany’s The Chemistry of Death based on the Simon Beckett novels and South Korea’s Black Mirror-esque Yonder, the first series to emerge from ViacomCBS and CJ ENM’s mega content deal. ViacomCBS International Studios is involved with the production of all the shows, a sign that the group will not be foregoing its rights in the long term.
Will it work?: How this all plays out will be fascinating but one thing’s for sure, Paramount+ is moving into a crowded market. The investor day was littered with questions to Bakish and co over how the pivot will be funded and how the streamer expects to stand out against behemoths Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, along with the newer competition (HBO Max, Peacock etc). All these streamers are focusing hard on Europe and Amazon Europe Head Georgia Brown used a Berlinale Series event to deliver this big claim: “In my head, we’re a European streamer”. So Paramount’s placing of all the eggs into the streaming basket could clearly have catastrophic consequences. The general feeling was that the group’s non-D2C services will be “carefully managed” over the coming years, with little scope for growth, and a tumbling share price the morning after investor day won’t exactly inspire confidence. What follows could be an uphill struggle and we’ll track it all the way.
Golden End To Challenging Berlinale
Pushing ahead: Ever since Covid numbers began to rise in Germany in the first week of January, the 2022 edition of the Berlin International Film Festival was destined to be fraught with challenges. Organizers responded to the Omicron wave by moving the industry-focused European Film Market online, while resolving to valiantly progress with a condensed in-person festival across a reduced six-day format, with the final four days dedicated to catch-up screenings. The event’s ‘2G’ conditions saw reduced cinema capacities, mandatory masks and regular testing for audiences. In total, the fest recorded 128 positive cases, not an insignificant number but it represented only 1.5% of tests taken, which organizers said was lower than the wider city of Berlin was experiencing.
Winners: This year’s winner of Berlin’s top prize, the Golden Bear, was the much-fancied Alcarras (pictured) by Spanish filmmaker Carla Simon. A jury led by M. Night Shyamalan made the call, crowning the film which details the life of a family of peach farmers in a small village in Catalonia. Further winners on the night included Hong Sang-soo’s The Novelist’s Film, Natalia Lopez Gallardo’s Robe of Gems, Claire Denis’ Both Sides Of The Blade, and Andreas Dresen’s Rabiye Kurnaz vs George W. Bush. See the full list of winners here.
EFM delivers: Despite it being forced to move online, the European Film Market saw some action this year. Particularly eye-catching was Sony’s $60M pact for the Tom Hanks comedy A Man Called Otto at the beginning of the fest, a record for the Berlin market. Today, the EFM confirmed it had hosted 600 exhibitors this year (up from 504 at last year’s digital edition) from 62 countries and 1,300 online market screenings, a little less than last year. “The EFM has again created clear, vital momentum for the film and content trade at its traditional date at the beginning of the film year,” said EFM director Dennis Ruh.
Series Mania Is Coming
TV’s turn: As the dust settles from a successful in-person Berlin, attention turns to the TV world and France’s Series Mania. Organizers on Thursday unveiled the shows, juries, panels and guests that will feature in Lille next month and it’s going to be a big one. Nine shows from six countries will compete in the prestigious International Competition including Michael Hirst’s Billy the Kid, and Hirst (pictured) is Guest of Honor. Plenty more for attendees to get their teeth into across the week, including the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions and talks from a string of the sector’s biggest names. More info here.
Mip TV Woes: Series Mania’s grand launch came in the week that I reported on teething problems at RX France, the owner of the TV industry’s other big upcoming market: Mip TV. A restructure at the company driven by last summer’s merger has led to several departures in recent weeks, we understand, and replacements in a set of newly-created roles have not yet been found. Major UK distributors are pondering whether to exhibit.
Bullying & Mental Health Back On The Agenda
“Shocking, surprising, disheartening”: The UK’s mental health crisis and bullying and harassment issues were once again placed atop the agenda this week with the release of The Film & TV Charity’s long-awaited Looking Glass survey. Read here for more details but the stats on bullying are alarming, with more than half of 2,000 respondents stating that they have experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination in the past year. Charity CEO Alex Pumfrey described the stats as “shocking, surprising and disheartening” and said she had expected things to have improved following high-profile incidents involving the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Noel Clarke.
“Green shoots”: There were “green shoots”on mental health, said Pumfrey, who pointed to the number describing their mental health as “poor” and “good” plateauing over the past two years, which may not seem like progress but has obviously come during an intense period of lockdowns, illness and financial strife. Speaking on a Deadline-hosted panel at Berlin, two UK execs who have their ear to the ground on the matter, Sarah Mosses and Rebecca Day, spotlighted several improvements that have taken place since that first lockdown. “There was a real sense when the pandemic started of people saying ‘I can now take a pause and think about what I need, how I might want to work in the future and how we can make that happen’,” said Day, a Psychologist who produced 2018 doc feature Becoming Animal. The industry is no doubt becoming more innovative. Amazon Prime Video’s diversity boss Margy Elliott revealed at Berlin that the streamer is rolling out on-set counsellors to several of its productions, following the success of the measure on Barry Jenkins’ Underground Railroad. For too long these issues have permeated the screen industries and Deadline will keep readers abreast of the work being done to redress.
Deadline Meets Alia Bhatt
Leading lady: Bollywood star Alia Bhatt has spent the last decade as a leading lady in Hindi cinema, winning awards and attending premieres of the highest order. Tom caught up with her earlier this week to talk upcoming feminist tale Gangubai Kathiawadi, which premiered at Berlin’s Special Gala, signing with WME and the Covid pandemic.
Propaganda battles: As we brace for World War Three (maybe), check out vet Foreign Affairs Correspondent Hollie McKay’s fantastic special report for Deadline about the propaganda war that is already being waged in Ukraine. “For Ukrainians trying to manage the nagging uncertainty, its another layer to the seemingly endless cross-border battle,” writes Hollie, who spoke with a wealth of high-ranking officials in the region. Full report here. Not to be missed.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Brooklyn Nine Nine star Stephanie Beatriz will feature with The Vampire Diaries actor Paul Wesley in horror-thriller History of Evil. Shudder has boarded for the U.S., UK and Australia.
🌶️ Another one: Deadline’s very own Mike Fleming Junior had the scoop on Chris and Paul Weitz’s Spanish Dracula.
🌶️ Yet another: Sherlock star Siân Brookes is to lead BBC One police thriller Blue Lights from Salisbury Poisonings creators Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson.
🚚 On the move: UK indie veteran Alexandra Fraser has moved to Channel 4-backed indie Spirit Studios.
🏆 Awards latest: Help and His Dark Materials writer Jack Thorne was recognized for Outstanding Contribution To Writing at the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards.
🍿 Box office: Robert Pattinson’s The Batman has a Chinese launch date, as does Tom Holland’s Uncharted, both in March.
🎦 Trailer: A new era for Downton Abbey, with the highly-anticipated film due out in May.
🧢 Peaky: BBC One has set the premiere date for Steven Knight’s long-awaited sixth and final season of Peaky Blinders.
Tom Grater contributed to this week’s International Insider.
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