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From WBD’s Max in Europe to Netflix Swagger, Disney+’s Soap Experiment and a Building Optimism in Europe: 10 Takeaways From Series Mania

LILLE, France —  The big news at Series Mania was Warner Bros. Discovery’s European roll-out timeline for Max, announced Thursday at the climax of the Series Mania’s Lille Dialogues.

The most keenly anticipated session was nearly Series Mania’ Forum first: a Netflix showcase hosted by a confident Larry Tanz who significantly proved the only goal streamer exec to drill down on volume commitment.

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Nobody was saying at Series Mania the industry is in an easy place. But signs at this year’s edition that, at least in Europe, business may be turning a corner, or at least has the corner in sight. The newest normal will be a far cry from the peak TV of old, however.

Final attendance soared to 4,200 at the Forum, an all-time record. That’s hardly surprising. “You have all the French broadcasters there, a lot of European public broadcasters, a few Scandinavian commercial channels and some platforms. It’s much more about pre-selling and co-production projects, it’s not selling tape,” says Jens Richter, Fremantle CEO of commercial and international. So, as Europe and now U.S. players look to co-produce higher end series in order to share costs, Series Mania, already the biggest festival in Europe, is likely to remain a place to be.

10 Takeaways on this year’s Series Mania: 

Max Lands in Europe 

Standalone service Max will bow in its first 20 European countries across the Nordics, Iberia, and Central and Eastern Europe, JB Perrette announced in a climax to Series Mania’s Lille Dialogues. France, Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium follow closely, prior to July’s Olympic Games. WBD’s two rates include a basic plan with ads, first available in Scandinavia, Netherlands, Romania, Poland, France and Belgium. Perrette anticipated Max to be one of the three-to-five big global streamers still standing in five years thanks to “great international and local storytelling.” Max will produce originals make available globally on its streaming service – such as “Black Lies” teased at Series Mania – and other shows, which will be co-productions.

A Goodbye to All That Volume

All the global streamers unveiled new shows at Series Mania. Symptomatically, Netflix’s was by far the most voluminous, unveiling 12 brand new Nordic titles, for example, and only Netflix was willing to talk volume: Larry Tanz, Netflix‘s VP of EMEA Content, confirming it had over 40 European productions shooting in Europe in March. Other unveils were highly more select. That of course spoke volumes about the volume business in Europe: For the time being at least, it’s over.

Netflix Greets the New World Order

Like Columbus with America, any new world has to be not only reached, but recognized and communicated. And who better to do so than Netflix itself, the huge harbinger of sea change. So Larry Tanz, Netflix VP EMEA Content, may have brought down the flag officially on a post-peak TV landscape at a considered Next on a Netflix presentation on March 19 by publicly embracing its three major contours. Tanz announced two new originals, one crime drama “Amsterdam Empire,” starring “X-Men” alum Famke Janssen. He also recognized the important role of acquisitions – citing a pay-one window deal with Constantin in Germany – and stressed Netflix’s current flexibility on IP ownership. Netflix only owns the IP on 25% of its European projects, he noted. 

The Worst May Be Past, If Better Times Have Yet to Come

The worst may be past, however. “It’s not news to anybody that the business has collapsed,” says Frank Spotnitz (“The X Files,” “Medici”), at Series Mania to talk up “Nuremberg” at a Constantin panel. “Last year was a kind of the nadir because suddenly all the traditional Hollywood studios said: ‘We need to stop spending, stop making so many shows.’ My feeling is, however, that we’re getting pretty close to the bottom of the collapse and the business is going to rebuild and will be built on a rational, sustainable business model.” Other shared that measured optimism at Series Mania. “Everbody knows not as much drama is being commissioned,” said Wayne Garvie, at Sony Pictures Television, giving a keynote on Wednesday. “There was a lot of stuff that got made that didn’t get seen. It’s maybe a good thing actually.”

U.S. Blues

Cathy Payne, distributor Banijay Rights CEO, said at a Series Mania keynote that she knew of many projects in the U.K. from with leading producers now having trouble attracting financing because in the U.S. market “that financing is just not there at the moment.” Spotnitz concurred: “America had a lot further to fall because it was the epicenter of the bubble, the spending spree.” Stats released by Ampere Analysis a few days before SeriesMania forecast that outside the U.S., global content spent, excluding sports, will soar 40% over 2022-28, while U.S. spend will plunge 20%.

 Europe: a Safer Haven

“Things in Europe actually are not nearly as bad as they feel in America right now. By a large margin, most shows are still made by terrestrial broadcasters. Ad revenues are a little bit down but not hugely. Shows we make in Europe cost less. Post-crash, what people want are lower-cost shows that reach a large audience,” says Spotnitz. “As an American, I can’t help being hugely distressed by what’s happening in America, but one can’t help seeing that Europe is well positioned in the new landscape.”

Co-Production: One Name of the Game

Europe can at least take up part of the U.S. slack. “Drama is still a very strong part of public broadcasters’ schedule All of them have very deep interest in their on-demand platforms,” Richter says. “All of them know that in order to get bigger shows done, they need to partner up. So they’re very eager to have co-production conversations or share in projects. In general, that’s that’s the underlying trend of this year already. You saw it last year, but now it becomes clearer this year,” he adds.

Buzz Titles

Reaping a 10-minute standing ovation on Saturday, BBC Three’s “Boarders” proved a press favourite, a comedy questioning the arcane dysfunctionality of Britain’s elite public school (ie. private school) education which has stapled the minds and morals of get country’s ruling and still ruling elite. Backed by Norway’s NRK and Canada’s Crave, “So Long, Marianne” had its fans for its fascinating concept – the romantic tragedy of Leonard Cohen, seen in part by the love of his life, Marianne Ilhen – and Alex Wolff’s central performance. 

Kevin McDonald’s “George Blake” and Erik Matti’s globe-spanning “The Squatter” drew heat after and before winning Seriesmakers, now set for a third edition. Highlighted by Variety, undaunted true crime drama “Our People” took Series Mania’s coveted best project award at its Co-Pro Pitching Sessions. 

So What Sells?

“It’s almost like back to the future. We’re doing more content with free to air broadcasters than we’ve done for a long time,” says Garvie. So what sells is a crucial question. “We will see more blue sky and escapism,” says Richter, citing the case of Lux Vide/Amazon series Costiera, a case of the week procedural set on Italy’s sun-drenched Amalfi coast. “Marketability is now in every conversation. If the marketing ability isn’t IP or a true event, a bigger series probably requires a bigger cast.”

Political Thrillers, the Questioning of Authority

Political thrillers were rife at Series Mania, from “In the Shadows,” depicting the paranoia and even distrust in online election result calculations, to “Herrhausen – the Banker and the Bomb,” plumbing the assassination of Alfred Herhaussen, chairman of Deutsche Bank, and on to Swedish national security nailbiter “8 Months,” from Anagram Sweden.

Other titles simply display a distrust of authority, ranging from the head and board of elite public school St Gilberts to received wisdom, whether on George Blake or Constantin’s “Nuremberg,” written by Frank Spotnitz. “The general audience is a lot more critical towards their governments and politicians in 2024 than maybe five years ago,” says Richter. Shows questioning authority “trigger a conversation,” he adds.

If It Is Broke….

But Series Mania saw more than series railing against the system. Outgoing M6 chief Nicolas de Tavernost used his keynote to lobby for regulatory reform, pointing towards a French policy that binds broadcast license renewals to a five-year sales interdiction alongside a wider mistrust of consolidation as to elements tying operators’ hands. “We need freedom to invest,” said the exec, calling the existing regulatory climate “fossilized.” While Gaul’s antitrust authority nixed a proposed merger of M6 and TF1 in 2022, those stiff sales constraints have let to a startling media shakeup earlier this week as shipping company CMA-CGM pounced on the country’s leading 24-hour news network BFM-TV before the latter’s upcoming license renewal. As de Tavernost sees it, both situations could have – and should have – been better handled had broadcasters been granted more flexibility.

Equally, in Lille, Netflix’s Tanz berated “constricting and subquota limitations that can stifle creativity,” in the application of E.U. investment and content quotas. He also gave a shout-out to Spain, however, its flexibility allowing Charlie Corvill’s “Kaos” to shoot at Netflix’s Tres Cantos mega studio near Madrid.

Primacy for Premium Soaps

Another case of back to the future, maybe, but with a distinctive modern twist. At Series Mania, Disney+ announced among its new originals in Europe, a 70-episode soap opera Las Salinas. It is produced by Banijay’s Diagonal TV, behind “Amar es para siempre,” a period daily drama running for 19 years in Spain. There, Diagonal and Bambu Producciones have proved that if melodrama is made for modern audiences with premium TV  production value, the results can significantly power up a broadcaster’s total ratings, as happened last year with Bambu’s “The Vow” and RTVE. One of Netflix’s biggest non-English language hits is Colombia’s “Scent of Passion.” Disney+’s move is far from surprising.  

The Deals and Biz Announcements 

The whole industry gamut – from global streamers to public broadcasters, Super Indies and creatives – used Series Mania to announce new shows, companies or deals. Following, the news, including 20 Variety Series Mania news exclusives:

*Bowing the Series Mania Forum, its industry event, Netflix announced an untitled thriller series starring Isabelle Adjani, and “Amsterdam Empire,” a Dutch crime series starring and executive produced by Famke Janssen. In an earlier announcement, Netflix confirmed it is working on 12 brand new Nordic original productions led by Jo Nesbø’s “Harry Hole,’”‘Diary of a Ditched Girl” from the “Solsidan” screenwriters, and period Series “The New Force.”

*In a push to bulk up a library of adult-skewing dramas, Disney+ unveiled a bevy of scripted originals out of France, Germany and Spain, including true crime thriller “The Lost Station Girls,” with “Emily in Paris” star Camille Razat; German period comedy “Vienna Game” will reframe the 1814 Congress of Vienna as a “seven-month-long party”; from Spain hate crime docuseries “Lucrecia: A Murder In Madrid” and 70-episode family drama “Return to Las Sabinas.”

*Warner Bros. Discovery’s Streamer Max unveiled its French scripted slate, including ‘Malditos, a Gypsy community-set action-packed crime thriller, and “Living with our Deads,” from Fédération Studios.

*Paramount+ confirmed it has acquired “Zorro” (working title), an adventure comedy series starring Jean Dujardin, the Oscar-winning actor of “The Artist,” as the iconic character of Diego de la Vega, for France, the U.K., Italy, Germany and Latin America.

*Bulking up on genre, Prime Video is growing its Nordic slate with mystery crime series ‘Blind Spot,’ dystopian thriller ‘VAKA’ from ‘The Bridge’ director.

*‘The New Years,’ from ‘The Beasts’ Rodrigo Sorogoyen, will see Arte France joining Movistar Plus+ to produce and distribute the romantic drama.

*A milestone for French Banners Arte, Unité and Federation, chess thriller ‘Rematch’ has been bought by HBO Europe and Disney+.

*AMC’s Streamer Acorn TV bought Daphna Levin’s Israeli thriller ‘The Truth’ for the U.S., U.K., and Australia/New Zealand.

*Channel 4 has acquired Series Mania buzz title ‘After the Party’ from ITV Studios.

*Before the Berlinale Series Market, Beta Film picked up “Soviet Jeans,” an ‘unconventional’ take on Soviet Latvia – with a touch of “Finding Nemo.” A prominent presence at Series Mania, also teaming with the festival for Seriesmakers, Beta Film also swooped before its Series Mania world premiere on ’30 Days of Lust,’ where a young couple tests 30 days of free love.

*Gaumont has inked with producer Giorgio Gucci to make a scripted TV series about the rise of the iconic Gucci fashion brand.

*Amaya Muruzabal, ”Red Queen” showrunner and “Hernán” creator announced she is hanging her own shingle, M Content, partnering with ‘Love After Love’ producer Mariano Chihade.

*Quentin Lee is set to direct “Morning, Paris!” melding fashion, East-West Asian identities, corporate espionage and romance, and pitched at Series Mania’s Canada-France Series Lab.

*Indie streamer Mubi has acquired worldwide streaming rights to South African artist William Kentridge’s prestige series “Self-Portrait As a Coffee Pot,” which explores how art is made in the digital age.

*France Televisions announced orders for both “Lucky Luke” with “Lost Bullet” star Alban Lenoir and period female-led racing show ‘Rallye 82.’

*Banijay Nordic’s Yellow Bird is set to produce “A Life’s Worth,” about a Swedish U.N. peacekeeping mission in the ‘90s Bosnian War.

*Hungary’s RTL Group has boarded “Cicatriz” originated by Madrid-based Plano a Plano and notably, adapting a novel by “Red Queen” author Juan Gómez-Jurado. The series is backed by RTVE, Prime Video in Spain. Serbia’s Telekom Srbija and  Canal+ in Poland.

*All3Media International has rolled out “Trigger Point” Season 2 to Canada’s CBC, Australian streamer Stan, Middle East’s OSN, France’s Canal+ and Spain’s Movistar Plus+.

*’Catch Me a Killer,’ with ‘Game of Thrones’’ Charlotte Hope, pre-´sold widely as Abacus Media Rights rolls out its crime drama slate.

*Fremantle’s Monster brought onto the market at Series Mania’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions Norwegian drama ‘The Odesa Wrestlers,’ co-created by ‘Vikings’’ Thorbjørn Harr.

*Keshet Studios has acquired U.S. Remake Rights to French Romantic Thriller Series ‘Vortex’

*Onza Distribution has picked Czech World War II drama “Golden Swan.”

*Tuva Novotny starrer ‘All and Eva’ from ‘New Comedy Queen of Sweden’ Johanna Runevad, has sold to Australia, Spain and Greece.

*Amsterdam-based Big Blue is set to produce the upcoming series “Kiss My Feet,” alongside Finnish company Helsinki-filmi. Series was presented at Series Mania’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions.

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