Memo From Netflix: ‘ Ich Bin ein Ber­liner’ Ger­man stream­ing sub­scribers

Me­dia ▶ Stream­ing ser­vices are cre­at­ing Euro­pean shows to win view­ers ▶

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In a wooded area just out­side Ber­lin, ex­ca­va­tors rum­ble across the sandy soil, and the sound of ham­mer­ing fills the air as work­ers clam­ber up fivestory-high build­ing fa­cades. This is Ba­bels­berg, the stu­dio at the heart of Ger­many’s film in­dus­try, which is build­ing a $13 mil­lion out­door set that stretches across an area the size of two foot­ball fields. Called Neue Ber­liner Strasse— New Ber­lin Street—it will be home to Baby­lon Ber­lin, a 12-episode TV se­ries about the deca­dent fi­nal years be­fore Hitler rose to power that’s sched­uled to start shoot­ing in April. Pro­duced by Bri­tain’s Sky and Ger­man broad­caster ARD and di­rected by Tom Tyk­wer, cre­ator of the 1998 hit film Run Lola Run, “the pro­ject is of a scale un­like any­thing Ger­many has seen be­fore,” says Elke Walthelm, who heads Sky’s Ger­man con­tent busi­ness.

Ger­many is be­com­ing the fo­cal point in the bat­tle for the Euro­pean pay-tv mar­ket—de­liv­ered via meth­ods such as ca­ble, satel­lite, and stream­ing— which re­searcher IHS ex­pects to grow to $58 bil­lion in 2019, from $44 bil­lion last year. Sky has boosted spend­ing on orig­i­nal fare and al­lied with HBO and Show­time to dis­trib­ute its shows, and In­ter­net-based new­com­ers are woo­ing cus­tomers with lo­cal-lan­guage pro­duc­tions. Ama­zon.com in Fe­bru­ary said it’s hir­ing pop­u­lar Ger­man ac­tor Matthias Sch­weighöfer to di­rect and star in its first orig­i­nal se­ries pro­duced out­side the U.S., a hack­ing thriller set in Ber­lin called Wanted. Two weeks later, Netflix an­nounced its first Ger­man pro­ject, Dark, a su­per­nat­u­ral se­ries that will be di­rected by Switzer­land’s Baran bo Odar, whose thriller Who Am I was a box-of­fice hit in Ger­many. “Our U.S. orig­i­nal con­tent trav­els well, but there is great TV be­ing made in many coun­tries,” says Jonathan Fried­land, chief com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer for Netflix.

Lo­cal con­tent is im­por­tant as the com­pa­nies seek to ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­ally. Netflix in May will air Mar­seille, a French political drama star­ring Gérard Depar­dieu, and it’s work­ing on an Ital­ian crime se­ries called Suburra that’s set to air next year. Sky has shot sev­eral shows in Ital­ian, in­clud­ing Go­mor­rah, an­other crime drama, now in its se­cond sea­son. Lo­cal-lan­guage pro­gram­ming res­onates with Euro­pean au­di­ences and is of­ten more pop­u­lar with ad­ver­tis­ers than im­ported shows—as seen in the suc­cess of Scan­di­na­vian dra­mas such as The Bridge and The Killing, says Neil Cam­pling, a me­dia an­a­lyst with Avi­ate Global in Lon­don. “But there’s also a higher de­gree of risk, since you have to be­lieve lo­cal con­tent will trans­late into global ap­peal,” he says.

As Netflix and Ama­zon seek a big­ger share of the Euro­pean mar­ket, they’re com­ing up against pow­er­ful in­cum­bents such as France’s Canal Plus, with 15 mil­lion sub­scribers, and Sky, with 21 mil­lion and an ex­ten­sive lineup of soc­cer, rugby, and other

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