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Klaus Zimmermann • Producer

“Today, viewers of drama series have become their own programme directors”

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- International producer Klaus Zimmermann, who delivered the Serial Eyes keynote speech, entitled “The Future of the European Drama Series”, at coco, answered Cineuropa’s questions

Klaus Zimmermann  • Producer

At the 19th edition of the connecting cottbus East-West co-production market, aka coco, where the Berlin-based initiative Serial Eyes, Europe’s premier postgraduate training programme for television writers and producers, also organised two lectures on serial financing and serial development, Cineuropa met up with Klaus Zimmermann. The former chief of France’s Atlantique Productions, partner producer on Borgia and Transporter: The Series, managing partner of LA-based Dynamic Television since 2014, and founder of its Paris and Berlin branches, delivered a very thorough keynote lecture, entitled “The Future of the European Drama Series”, covering the current state of the global series market, the non-uniform situation in Europe and the changes to be expected, as it is currently at a turning point when it comes to drama production and financing.

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Cineuropa: How would you describe the global series market and the new players that have been emerging over the past few years?
Klaus Zimmermann
: Clients of a totally new type have appeared, mainly in the USA – clients who order and commission television programmes (well, that is if we still want to call them “television”...), and it started not so long ago, maybe five years ago, when Netflix ordered House of Cards. Now, if you look at the landscape, beyond normal broadcast television and cable TV, there are global digital players – whether it is Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube or, soon, Apple – that have now become the most prolific platforms and commissioners of television drama, and have taken the lead in terms of quantity as well as innovation. I think that in 2018, altogether, they are planning to spend around $10 billion to $12 billion on drama production, which represents a huge market. So I would say that this is the big new game, when you’re in the TV business. Those players have emerged and are now investing a lot of money.

Does that fit in with the anatomy of the European market?
The European market is substantially different from the American one because it is smaller and segmented into different TV cultures and languages. Also, public broadcasting is still very important here, while cable television and pay-TV are still a very small part of the market. Even though the few shows they make make a lot of noise, they are, by far, less important economically compared to the USA.

Coming into the digital age, global players have started to invest in Europe, in some of the territories, in local drama, but it still remains really marginal, compared to what the traditional, local broadcasters – public or commercial – are ordering. I would say the big boom in TV drama that we are witnessing today on the other side of the Atlantic is not really comparable to what is happening here.

In spite of that, are there some innovative new models emerging in Europe?
New models are certainly emerging, and the emphasis is on “emerging”: while America has reached the Golden Age of drama series, we are only at the beginning of something. The aforementioned new players have started to commission things, but we don’t know how heavily they will invest in local drama. We are starting to see smaller channels that had not previously invested in TV drama – whether they are long-term players in the market, like Fox or TNT in Germany, or new ones like OCS in France – which are now doing so, to make a difference in a more and more competitive environment. The landscape has also become more open, which means that the content circulation has increased, particularly regarding certain content: if you make a high-quality, fantastic Finnish drama, it can be sold in Spain and Italy, and so on.

There is now higher awareness in Europe that drama has become an expression in itself, so, just like the UK, for example, has become open to original drama not in the English language but with subtitles, the visibility and circulation of European shows in Europe and across the world have certainly increased.

Who can we expect to finance series increasingly in the coming years in Europe?
I think pubcasters will remain a stable force, as their revenues are not shrinking, because their fees are not dependent on advertising. On the contrary, the share of advertising-supported broadcasters in the drama market will certainly decline more and more. What is to be hoped is that the pay-TV channels that are everywhere in Europe will continue to increase their investment in drama production because they need to make sure that they have an exclusive supply of new programmes in order to survive in a more and more international market where competitors like Netflix and Amazon are showing their US productions on their own platforms and nudging into the national markets.

We also hope that there will be new models of financing, maybe across different players, in certain territories. They would combine, for example, pay TV and free TV, or even platforms and free TV, like we see in Italy and in France, or even in the UK, between Netflix and local broadcasters. That is, in my view, the direction in which the current market is shifting.

You pointed out that series can no longer really be called TV series? Are they going to move mainly to the digital platforms?
That is my suspicion, yes. Today, viewers of drama series have become their own programme directors, in a way: they decide what to watch and when to watch it, independently of a schedule, and this non-linear way of consuming drama has become a major appeal. Therefore, my guess is that broadcasters will continue to invest in live events, magazines, news, documentaries and social programmes, and that drama will find its place more in the digital world. Whether series are financed by the digital players or by the broadcasters themselves, it is almost certain that they will be mainly watched on digital platforms in ten years’ time. In Norway, for example, TV3 has been combining its regular programming with its online platform, Viafree, which is just as well advertised and supported, except it is online. So now, they start their big shows on digital first, and then they go onto the broadcaster – also because they know that the demographic they will reach through their online platform is more interesting because it’s a younger audience. So we see that even though TV3 was initially a traditional broadcaster, it has started to build up a second foundation in the digital world, and it is now playing with it, experimenting how to combine traditional television with non-linear consumption.

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