|Stieg Larsson: speaking as a European...|
If you are going to be an exporter of content, you need to know what other countries are looking for.
It’s quite simple really: they are looking for what they cannot do themselves. Nearly everyone prefers content from their own country, in their own language. We are all locked into our private worlds, languages and cultures.
Let us take some examples. Drama is expensive – something many countries can only afford in small quantities. Some countries produce only low-budget soaps – so they may provide a market for good-quality mid-evening series. Even countries which can afford some primetime drama will have be gaps in the schedule.
Because of the preference for own-language work, format licensing has been a huge success. The key elements of the production are locked into a format bible, which is, in essence, a do-it-yourself manual for the production of a hit show.
And some factual content is of generic interest, natural history being the most obvious example. I won’t be saying much about news here, but news footage falls into that category too.
There are also a while number of practical considerations that go beyond price. Content must accommodate a country’s viewing patterns and scheduling habits.
These are some of the questions that need answers before assessing the potential demand in a given market. This can all be done with a careful look at a given country’s media structures and outputs. I will be saying more about how to assess a given market in later posts.
However there are many intangibles, which are more interesting because they are seldom discussed in a commercial context.
US drama content has helped to define the shape of many schedules worldwide. As above, others now have to accommodate them.
But there is a reason for that. Since the early part of the last century, the US has been a superpower and trend-setter for the Western world, a place of great interest and a potential destination for many, many people. Whatever the US does, the way its society works, has been fashionable in the way British mores were fashionable, at the height of its power during the second half of the 19th century.
In its early heyday, the US created a new style of entertainment for the masses, classless and open. Every boy and girl with their wits about them could be a winner in the game of life. It broke the mould: there are no classes, not rights of birth, in the American dream. That was attractive. The world was ready for it.
And that’s what drove US content out into the world’s cinemas and later the world’s televisions.( Of course you can add other facts that were key – a rapidly growing population, a booming economy, etc.) If the American dream had not resonated around the world, American entertainment would not have become the power that it has. Helped by its large and growing population and buoyant economy, it therefore had the resources to deliver the quantity and quality that made it a staple of daily entertainment.
And so it has defined the key parameters of entertainment in the Western world for nearly 100 years. The conventions, even the language of US comedy and drama became familiar. We know a US cop right away when we see one.
Those who want to tell stories that resonate around the world need to be aware of changes. What are the places where people want to be today? What are the lifestyles that people aim for? California may not be everyone’s dream home any more.
Programme development is also about geo-politics. Fiction is just one of the ways we learn life skills in a changing world. (Don’t think the early studios just fell into their way of doing things. They thought long and hard about all this).
The US is still the superpower and will remain the largest economy on the planet for fifteen or twenty years but the world is changing and there is a reason for every entertainment trend.
Swedish detective novels are popular. They talk about a world which all European share. There is no labelled baggage cluttering the hallway as you enter the fictional houses of Henning Mankell or Stieg Larsson. For millions of Europeans a settled continent that lives without strife may be less glamorous than California but it is where they live and want to remain and Mankell and Larsson speak to them.
But that does not mean you don’t need talent, money, patience, good luck, excellent timing and street smarts.
Back to the real world of day to day business next week….