“It was like a fire sale when we all started closing in March and April,” said Val Boreland, director of programming for NBCUniversal Television and Streaming. “Everyone was just looking for something to get their hands on.”
In order to close their gaping programming gaps, networks sought and acquired international series on an unprecedented scale. But now that the dust has only just settled and a handful of US series are tentatively returning to the set, where is the global pipeline of shows? Will the tide of international acquisitions continue, and if so, will they remain an equally important factor in the networks’ plans?
According to Kevin Levy, vice president of programming, planning, and acquisitions at CW, COVID-19 has not caused the network to change its strategy, but rather it has “become more aggressive and faster.”
“In the early stages of the pandemic, we recognized the challenges our productions would have to face when they get back on their feet. To give them and our studio partners time to figure everything out and make everything safe, we decided to press what our fall launches would have been through January, and that made it necessary for us to find programs available that target the Brand matched and matched the CW model to fill the schedule, ”says Levy.
Searching for help in markets such as the UK, Canada and Italy, the network recorded the UK horror comedy miniseries “Killer Camp” from the former and Sky Italy-directed “Devils” under the heading of Patrick Dempsey from the latter.
Having a star the size of Dempsey is “a coup” for CW, according to Levy, and the series, along with a few other acquisitions, has shown promising signs of its most recent debut.
Not every single acquisition will set the US audience on fire (for example, the British panel game show Taskmaster, one of the UK’s biggest unscripted hits in recent years, was left with only one poorly rated CW – Schedule deleted episode), the unpredictable nature of pandemic production means CW can’t afford to contain its international content push, according to Levy.
“Original programs are not only important for the broadcast side and our partners, but also for the digital side. The more original the programs that we can fill our schedule with, the better, ”he says. “The calendars have shifted, it will take a while for things to normalize, and we haven’t slowed our pursuit of content. But we look forward to being able to rely on a regular flow of production again. ”
One of the great international success stories of the acquisition during COVID-19 was the Canadian medical drama “Transplant,” which, according to Nielsen, has an average of 6 million viewers after seven days of being advertised for NBC – not too many emergency operating rooms removed from the numbers “Law & Order: SVU “last season.
While the acquisition deal for “Transplant” was certainly backed by the fact that the show is being made by NBCU’s international studio division, the show “hit all of the checklist items we’re looking for, which is rare,” said Jeff Bader, director of Programming for NBCU television and streaming.
“Such shows are hard to find, which doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of really good shows. But you have to find something that isn’t too British, or not too Canadian, or not too Australian. It has to be something that feels right, ”says Bader.
Both Bader and Boreland have taken on expanded roles as part of NBCU’s restructured entertainment business units under the direction of Frances Berwick. Both agree that the restructuring has given the company a stronger basis for entering the acquisition market.
“We have a really good structure in place to make sure we take a look at what’s out there and then decide which of our platforms is best for, rather than everyone having to walk and scrub on their own,” says Bader. “Hopefully we will see more and more of them and our desire to find them will not diminish at all, COVID or no COVID.”
With Peacock in particular, it’s clear that the new streamer was keen to add some alien feathers to its content tail from the start.
The list of international series included both the British crime series “The Capture”, which was originally commissioned by the BBC, as well as the comedy “Intelligence” directed by David Schwimmer, which from the start together with Comcast-supported pay TV Operator Sky was commissioned. The well-received BBC One drama “Noughts + Crosses” was the latest addition, according to Boreland, a “timely” move not only because of the pandemic but also in the face of protests against racial justice across the country.
According to Boreland, the streaming audience’s desire for overseas shows has increased in recent years, and the pandemic has likely only made viewers hungrier.
Add the fact that in an increasingly competitive, crowded acquisitions market, Peacock still has to fill an extensive library of content, and Boreland says NBCU will continue to “look more aggressively” at potential international deals.
“I think the US audience has already changed their appetite for international programming, especially during a pandemic, when people are at home looking for good and different content. You’re probably a little more open now than you were before, ”she says. “There are so many content hours to fill. Thinking that we shouldn’t be working with international programs is crazy because there is so much great content around the world. ”
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