Mipcom: International TV Output Picture Changing for U.S. Majors

Cynthia Littleton

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The global import-export strategies of the U.S. majors are in flux as the world’s major content companies gather this week in Cannes for the annual Mipcom market and conference.

Disney, WarnerMedia and the other handful of media conglomerates that control the vast majority of the U.S. market are in the midst of a radical transition of focus in the business of producing and exhibiting content, shifting from a business model rooted in third-party licensing of channels and programs to a focus in gathering subscribers for in-house direct-to-consumer platforms.

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After coming to Mipcom for decades to sell TV shows and movies to the world’s TV buyers, some of the majors are now planning for a future where they produce high-end content for their own streaming platforms, rather than relying on cable and satellite operators and local TV stations to distribute their wares. This has many prominent buyers in the international marketplace worried about the supply pipeline over the long term.

But even as the direct-to-consumer strategy takes root, the largest U.S. media giants are also looking to do more indigenous business in TV on the ground in key territories than ever before. Comcast and NBCUniversal have planning to expand their reach in the U.K. and Europe operations following Comcast’s $40 billion acquisition of Sky.

Last week, NBCUniversal tapped Channel 4 and BBC alum Ed Havard to serve as director of entertainment partnerships for the U.K. His mandate is to drive co-productions and other partnerships between NBCUniversal outlets in the U.S. and talent in the U.K.

“NBCUniversal has very clear ambition to be a global company,” said Enrique Guillen, exec VP of commercial strategy and international development for NBC Entertainment. “This is one more step in getting that strategy to have eyes and ears on the ground in key markets. Ed’s mandate is to be a conduit to bring the best U.K. talent into the NBCUniversal world.”

HBO is the centerpiece of WarnerMedia’s plans to build out the proprietary HBO Max streaming platform, which also aspires to be a global service for maximum amortization of its content expenditures, a la Netflix. That means HBO and Warner Bros. will likely keep more of its high-end content off the open market outside the U.S. But in this interim period, there is still high demand for high-end content and HBO isn’t going to leave money on the table. “Game of Thrones” can’t be bought but HBO Latin America is eagerlys hopping three premium projects this week at MIPCOM, including the buzzy period drama “Santos Dumont,” a biopic of the famed Brazilian aviator and inventor Alberto Santos Dumont. That series and others on HBO Latin America’s slate reflects the bigger budgets and wider scope of HBO’s original series productions outside the U.S.

“We want to make it easier for more and more people across the world to enjoy our local Latin America content, as we know they have already done in more than 100 countries. There’s still a huge potential for growth and exposure for our titles worldwide,” said Xavier Aristimuño, VP of licensing for HBO Latin America.

In a world where Turkish telenovelas are hot properties in South America and New York City commuters watch Korean soap operas on their smartphones, there is simply too much potential for the majors to ignore, even as they look to emulate Netflix’s global reach.

“We think the U.K. community is more vibrant than ever. (Talent) is looking at the world and seeing what’s happening with streaming and they’re open to the options we present. Our main focus (at Mipcom) is to connect with broadcasters and producers and creatives and see what we can create together.”

(Pictured: HBO Latin America’s “Santos Dumont”)

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