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International TV Booms as Streaming Services Invest in Global Market

Derek Walborn

As the American market becomes saturated with streaming services, companies are working more aggressively to build their audiences overseas. Netflix and Amazon's heavy investment in international programming has led the charge as the success of original shows like “Dark” (Germany), “Narcos” (Mexico), “Money Heist” (Spain) and “Made in Heaven” (India) have proven to be integral to their growth. Spending big on globe-spanning productions has now become a key factor for every streaming service looking to dominate our screens.

Never one to miss out on a market share, Disney+ has plans to commission 50 shows in Europe by 2024. The streamer recently revealed 10 new European originals including “Parallels” from France, Italy’s “The Good Mothers,” and “Sam - A Saxon” from Germany. While we await Disney+ to reveal more details regarding their upcoming roster of productions in the U.K., they have recently brought aboard producer Lee Mason as second director of scripted content for Europe in a move that shows their determination to establish a firm foothold in the region.

Israel seems to be the country of choice at the moment for both HBO Max and Apple TV+, as both platforms dig deeply into their wallets to appease their customers’ appetite for international entertainment by setting up camp. Apple TV+ has been pumping its finances into dramas like “Losing Alice” and spy series “Tehran,” while HBO Max has “On The Spectrum” and “Possessions.” With “On The Spectrum” being a comedy/drama that centers around autism and “Possessions” being a psychological thriller, both Hebrew-language productions reveal that HBO Max is looking to appeal to diverse audiences and cover a wide range of tastes.

Netflix and Amazon continue to have their feet firmly on the gas with the former having committed to putting up almost $500 million this year alone on productions from South Korea and financing around 16 anime projects from Japan.

Both streaming giants are also battling it out in France with Amazon’s comedy series “Greek Salad” and their investment in Parisian reality TV coming up against Netflix’s plans to support 27 original French productions in 2021.

This all makes perfect sense if you ask Peter Csathy, founder and chairman of CreaTV Media. He describes international markets as “the next big battleground in the streaming wars.” While U.S. viewership of foreign content is not slowing down, he says that the domestic market with regard to new subscribers is “essentially saturated.” This has resulted in streaming providers turning to new customers overseas to continue to facilitate both financial growth as well as fresh programming.

Big streamers know that it’s critical to get in early to establish a foothold in these new markets. Those late to the party may find that potential subscribers are already tuned in to their competitors. Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at PP Foresight, says that “it is paramount to launch in as many markets as possible and forge key distribution deals with local providers. Build a base, scale the business, understand viewers’ habits and then invest in local production.”

“The opportunities are off the board, both on a sales and co-production level, to work with these new players,” says Matt Creasey, global sales, co-productions, and acquisitions executive for Banijay. He goes on to describe the current state of affairs as an “arms race.”

While most services avoid advertising within their platforms due to the absence of commercials being one of the perks of streaming content, the ability to target ads to untapped markets may also prove to be an irresistible source of revenue as streamers look to maximize their profit in tried and true ways.

According to Csathy, the ultimate success of providers in these markets will depend not just on how well they can grab new customers with premium content, but also how effective they are at maintaining interest. Csathy says this will require locally sourced programming that is exciting and meaningful to the target audience.

“Localized content – not just transported U.S. programming - is strategically critical for success,” he says.

Ending on an optimistic note for the international stars of the future, Csathy says he feels that “for creatives all around the world, it is the best of times, as all of these major streamers battle it out to break out and be a global winner.”

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