Hey, European Broadcasters, Netflix Is Coming for You

Hey, European Broadcasters, Netflix Is Coming for You

Claire Foy and Matt Smith starring in Netflix's The Crown.

SourceNetflix

Why you should care

Netflix is ramping up its European offerings. Traditional broadcasters on the Continent could turn to drastic solutions.

Netflix has sharply increased its content investment in Europe this year and will spend close to $1 billion on original productions across the Continent by the end of 2018. But its ambitions have alarmed European broadcasters, which are struggling with the migration of audiences to on-demand services from “linear” viewing — the traditional practice of tuning in to watch at a particular time.

Its new European projects include The Eddy, a musical drama series from Damien Chazelle, the director of La La Land, which will be filmed in Paris in French, English and Arabic. Netflix at present has 40 projects in production or being produced by partners in the U.K., including acclaimed hits The Crown and Black Mirror. Its latest series, Sex Education, about the teenage son of a sex therapist, is set in Wales.

The streaming service is on course for 141 projects in Europe this year. In 2019 it will make 221 projects.

It will nearly double its number of original projects in Europe, from 81 this year to 153 in 2019.

“A year ago we had one or two shows in Spain, next year we will have six or seven,” says Erik Barmack, Netflix’s vice president of international originals. “We are ramping toward 10 to 12 in each country … it could be more in particular markets.”

The company is a big buyer of programming from U.K. producers. The recent hit Bodyguard was made by ITV and screened in the U.K. on BBC One, but Netflix owns the international rights and is showing it on its service.

“We’re seeing a need in our biggest European markets for more local series and regional programming,” Barmack says, adding that the shows are crossing borders and attracting large audiences across Netflix’s international customer base. The streaming service has about 130 million subscribers worldwide.

Ofcom, the U.K.’s media watchdog, this week urged the country’s public service broadcasters to collaborate on a jointly owned streaming service that could showcase the best British programming.

Ofcom CEO Sharon White warned that “cord cutting” — the cancellation of pricey cable or satellite subscriptions — was growing in the U.K. “Cord cutting is no longer just a U.S. phenomenon,” she said at the Outside the Box conference in London. “In the U.K., for the first time ever last year, the amount spent on traditional pay TV fell, and the number of subscriptions was overtaken by the streaming services.”

White said the country’s broadcasters should develop a joint streaming service. “A common platform could combine the pulling power of Broadchurch, Blue Planet and [The Great British] Bake Off,” she said.

Broadcasters are beginning to strike collaborative deals in response to the growth of Netflix and other streaming services. Discovery, the U.S. media group that owns Eurosport, and ProSiebenSat.1, the German media company, are developing a subscription streaming service in Germany that will integrate their programming and digital services.

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By Matthew Garrahan

OZY partners with the U.K.'s Financial Times to bring you premium analysis and features. © The Financial Times Limited 2018.

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