Good afternoon Insiders. We have truly entered holiday season but in TV and film Land things simply don’t slow down. I’m Max Goldbart and here’s your list of the week’s biggest headlines.
Streamers Turn To Africa And Asia
Teething problem solutions: It’s no secret that some of the legacy players of the streaming world have been experiencing teething problems of late, with Netflix especially struggling with subs growth and commissioning shows that really cut through. One solution: Africa and Asia. This week saw a wealth of talent deals and new programs unveiled across both continents, led by Netflix’s See What’s Next Africa 2022/23 showcase in Johannesburg. Both continents have populations into the billions and huge growing middle class demographics that are ripe for additional subs growth. And the announcements came as UK ratings agency Barb showed that in the UK, for example, both Netflix and Amazon experienced subs declines in Q2. The falls of 200,000 and 600,000 subs respectively aren’t exactly earth-shattering – they represent small percentage losses in the low single figures – but if they continue heading in this direction as the quarters wear on, the likes of Africa and Asia can only grow in importance for the deep-pocketed U.S. giants. Elsewhere, newer rivals are breathing down Netflix and Amazon’s necks. Paramount Global’s Q2 earnings yesterday saw Bob Bakish laud Paramount+’s “above expectations” rollout in the UK, Ireland and South Korea, while the Paramount Global President/CEO forecast a “big year” for Western Europe as launches in France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany approach. And in Warner Bros. Discovery land, David Zaslav revealed the combined HBO Max Discovery+ offering will rollout in European markets and APAC as soon as 2024, so Netflix and Amazon will need to watch over their shoulders.
Netflix’s Dube play: Netflix’s third African talent deal came from the Johannesburg event in the shape of a multi-project partnership with South African filmmaker Mandlakayise (Mandla) Walter Dube, following on from creative tie-ups with EbonyLife founder Mo Abudu and Nigerian director Kunle Afolayan (pictured above) in recent years. The uber-talented Dube, who directed Netflix’s first commissioned African film Silverton Siege, will helm a variety of Netflix projects, and his unveiling came as Netflix showcased a wealth of African content and three new shows including another season of pan-African reality show Young, Famous & African. A day later, Netflix revealed a multi-year creative partnership with Indian Cinema Bandi filmmaking duo Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK via their D2R Films production banner. Check out our International Disruptors interview last week with Netflix India’s Monika Shergill and dive deeper into the streamer’s strategy in the region.
Amazon’s Turn: Not content with Netflix grabbing all the headlines, Amazon has also been busy in the two continents, only this morning revealing an increase in investment in Nigeria. That money will be spent on local feature Gangs of Lagos and a reversion of Amazon’s non-scripted hit Lol: Last One Laughing in the territory, along with, intriguingly, its first Nigerian marketing campaign and the ability for customers to sign up in the local Naira currency for the first time. Southeast Asia was Amazon’s other port of call this week and our Asia expert Liz had the lowdown on a slate that included a trio of situational comedy improv shows called Comedy Island. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the SVoDs in these continents and we’ll be following every step of the way.
Inside The UTA/Curtis Brown Deal
Call my agent: Jesse and Diana went deep on UTA’s surprise acquisition of British talent agency Curtis Brown Group this week. They spoke to several high-level agents and management execs on both sides of the Pond to get a handle on what it might mean for the UK and U.S. more broadly. Many are questioning how the co-agenting model — where talent has one agent in the UK and another in the U.S. — will work when an American agency owns a British one but both UTA and Curtis Brown spoke of a “deep respect” for each other and claim talent will not find the set up difficult or unpalatable. Things will remain BAU for at least a couple of years, say the outfits, and UTA will not pressure Curtis Brown clients to sign for them. Indeed, our guys revealed Stranger Things 4 breakout star Joseph Quinn (pictured above) — who’s on Curtis’ books — had been in conversation with all three major U.S. agencies over representation, demonstrating that commitment to separation. Quinn signed with CAA yesterday morning. But agents love to speculate and one knowledgeable source pulled no punches when they stated: “There is no way in the world that you buy it to leave it the same in the long term.” The talk in London is whether British agenting is set for an ‘Americanization’ overhaul but UTA and Curtis Brown say there’s nothing to worry about. Plenty more to come. Read the full piece here.
License To Change Funding Models
Sacre bleu: President Macron’s sweeping changes to French broadcasting were rubberstamped this week as senators voted to abolish the decades-old license fee in the early hours of Tuesday morning, per Melanie’s reporting, with the bill going through parliament last night. The move, which faced opposition on all sides of the chamber, will see the independent model – used in 60% of European countries – replaced by a tiny portion of VAT revenues that will amount to a similar €3B ($3.1B) spending pot for France Télévisions and the other French PSBs. Many fear the new model will impact pubcaster independence and are worried about its short-termism, as it elapses in just two-and-a-half years time. And the same is happening in the UK, where a long-awaited review into the license fee is expected to start in September and be extended from the initially-forecast six months to one year, I hear. The issue was ripe for analysis so I spoke to bigwigs in the European broadcasting world to see just how damaging the French/UK moves could be for the entire continent’s €35.5B ($36.3B) broadcasting sector. “Dramatic changes in funding models are always concerning, particularly in European countries where there isn’t the same history of independent media,” said European Broadcasting Union Director General Noel Curran. Full piece here.
Pact & Bectu Deadlocked
Reaching for the “summit”: Those who thought the Pact and Bectu mega-rift over their collapsing TV Drama Agreement we wrote about a fortnight ago would be resolved by now find themselves sorely mistaken. The week started with Bectu members “overwhelmingly” voting against Pact’s updated offer and ended with the trade body stating it had no choice but to arrange a “summit” with commissioners from the broadcasters, streamers and Sky to resolve the dispute. If Bectu’s terms in areas such as working hours and pay are accepted, Pact fears productions will have to shut down and independent producers “cannot resolve this on their own,” according to the trade body’s Deputy CEO Max Rumney. Both sides are bitter about media briefings from the other and a resolution before the September 1 renewal date is looking perilously unlikely. If the “summit”, which will likely take place Wednesday or Thursday, fails, indies in the booming UK scripted industry face the prospect of coming up with terms on a program-by-program basis, which will be wildly complicated and likely draw constant backlash from angry staffers. “It’s going to get messy,” said one source familiar with the negotiations. You can say that again.
A Quiet Oscar Submission
Ireland kicks things off: Colm Bairéad’s beautiful debut The Quiet Girl (An Cailín Ciúin) kicked off Oscar season Tuesday by becoming the first announced submission for the International Feature Film category. The Irish-language pic saw off competition from last year’s mainstream Oscar hit Belfast to sweep up at March’s Irish Film & Television Academy Awards and is already being seen as an outside bet. Many more international picks to emerge over the coming weeks as per and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the race to win an award that is growing in stature as the years roll on.
🌶️ Hot one: Sam Mendes (above) and Audible have teamed up for a set of Charles Dickens audio drama adaptations, setting Oliver Twist as debut.
🌶️ Another one: Legendary British actor Stephen Fry has boarded Netflix’s latest big UK YA bet The F**k it Bucket along with a string of talented newcomers. Fry could last be seen in the same streamer’s Heartstopper playing the befuddled Headmaster.
🌶️ Another one: Jesse broke the news of AMC Networks’ Sundance Now boarding Sky comedy/drama The Lovers.
🌶️ Stop it: Sally El Hosaini feature Unicorns, which is exec produced by Stephen Daldry, is entering principal photography in the UK this October. Andreas and Mel combined for this one.
🏪 Setting up shop: Filipina acting and singing star Lovi Poe, who has launched the delightfully named C’est Lovi Productions. Mel had the scoop.
🏪 Setting up a different shop: Former Channel 4 Deputy Programmes Boss and The Circle commissioner Kelly Webb-Lamb, who has opened Mothership Productions with two former colleagues.
👁️ He’s watching you: Three cheers for creative originality as Big Brother UK landed with its third broadcaster of the past 20 years, ITV, unveiled during the final trailer of Monday’s Love Island finale.
🚪 Exiting: BBC Storyville Commissioning Editor Philippa Kowarsky after less than a year in post.
🏕️ Festival latest: Daniel Radcliffe’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story will open the Midnight Madness section of this year’s TIFF, per Anthony D’Alessandro across the pond.
🏕️ And another: Our very own Zac Ntim brought news of the San Sebastián Film Festival lineup, featuring the European premiere of Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio’s highly-anticipated latest feature The Wonder.
💺 Chair: Tilda Swinton will chair the jury for the BFI and Chanel Filmmaker Awards.
🧑💼 New jobs: Toby Dormer, Allison Brough and Lindsay Tolbert all landed at John Morayniss’ ever-growing Canadian outfit Blink49 Studios, which opened a non-scripted division.
🧑💼 More new jobs: Our ongoing reporting of the STX UK situation saw top execs Llewellyn Radley, Laura Austin Little, Jill Silfen and Mike Shanks reunite with John Friedberg at new venture Black Bear International.
🖼️ First-look: Crime-thriller Toda La Sangre starring Aarón Díaz and Ana Brenda Contreras, per Rosy Cordero in the States.
🦁 Roaring: England’s Lionesses’ European Championships victory over Germany was watched by almost 40M people across the two nations.
❌ Banned: Piers Morgan, from Russia, along with former UK PM David Cameron. Russia’s gain is the UK’s loss…
Jesse Whittock contributed to this week’s International Insider.