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Série Series 2021

Industry Report: Series

At Série Series, Ampere Analysis breaks down the impact of the pandemic on European series production

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The British research company has presented data revealing that the COVID-19 crisis has strengthened the boom of streaming platforms and hindered traditional commissioners

At Série Series, Ampere Analysis breaks down the impact of the pandemic on European series production

The tenth Série Series festival, held in person but also still partially online this year owing to the pandemic, addressed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the European series industry, with a presentation led by Guy Bisson, executive director of Ampere Analysis. With helpful data and graphics, Bisson put into words what everyone suspected and had been speculating about when it came to the reasons behind recent changes.

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Entitled “From Pandemic to Streaming Shift: Series Production in a World of Change”, the presentation used Bisson’s idea of the “self-loading cannon” to illustrate the fact that major content owners creating their own series means that this content is no longer going down the supply chain as it used to; rather than going through release windows and landing on VoD, this content is self-serving for its creators.

Bisson questioned the concept that Netflix put forward of the “streaming subscriber carry forward”, which argued that after an increase in subscribers in the early days of the pandemic, streamers would see their number of new subscribers drop off. Instead, he demonstrated that in the fourth quarter of 2020, after a drop, that number went up again – a more accurate phrase seems to be “streaming subscriber carry on”.

This data suggests that streamers will continue to have a greater influence on commissions. Indeed, Netflix has become the largest commissioner of scripted content in Europe, surpassing traditional commissioners such as the BBC or ZDF.

Bisson then looked at the impact of COVID-19 on commissioning and development deals. Since scripted content couldn’t be created, unscripted content surged and remains popular even as scripted creation is now recovering as the pandemic is nearing its end.

Comparing linear and streaming commissioners, Bisson explained that although both were negatively impacted, streamers suffered less and remained above prior-year levels when it came to series orders as well. While streamers not only continued to develop projects during COVID-19, but in fact did so even more, linear commissioners proved very reactive, almost bringing developments to a halt as the first lockdown hit. The biggest drop in activity was in Western Europe, while Eastern Europe saw a huge surge, in particular in Russia.

Ad-supported video on demand (AVoD) has reared its head as a force to be reckoned with: although these streamers (IMDbTV, Crackle, peacock) have so far relied on old content, they have started dipping into original scripted series with a huge surge in the first quarter of 2021. Their commissions also hint at a move away from older audiences and towards the youth, with coming-of-age series, a focus on ethnic diversity and family challenges.

One interesting finding is that while streaming and series in general are seeing a boom, co-productions have dropped since the first lockdown. Bisson’s theory is that this change is more reflective of a changing industry, rather than of the pandemic directly. With major content owners going direct and no longer passing through traditional pathways, and since global rights requirements imply a need for complete control of content, co-production has become too challenging.

Bisson also observed a rise in opportunities for licensing finished content onto multiple streaming platforms. The percentage of scripted titles licensed to more than one platform in one year went from 8.9% in 2015 to 15.4% in 2020, suggesting that licensing windows have shrunk from upwards of a year to six months, and exclusivity has been waived in favour of the chance for platforms to continuously refresh their offering.

Overall, the impression is that streamers have not only survived the pandemic better than traditional series commissioners, but have in fact benefited from its impact on viewership and on the industry at large. It remains to be seen how linear commissioners will pursue their recovery in this ever-changing climate.

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