Apr 17, 2015

    Europe speaks common language to take on US TV shows


    GAME Of Thrones may finally bring about a change in Europe that various wars and European Union bureaucracy have failed to effect: making English a common language - on TV screens, at least.

    Ambitions to rival American television superproductions are forcing European companies to put aside national pride and linguistic defences to jointly make their own expensive co-productions, and that means necessarily using the world's most widely understood tongue, according to executives at an international TV-content fair in the French Riviera city of Cannes.

    "In each European country, TV networks finance series to the tune of 800,000 to 1.2 million euros (S$1.2 million to S$1.7 million) per hour, compared to three million euros an hour on American networks," Romain Bessi, the operating director for the StudioCanal production subsidiary of French channel Canal+, told Agence France-Presse.

    "European networks are now seeking to team up to finance productions for three to four million per hour," he said.

    Mr Bessi and other representatives at the MIPTV fair said there are around 100 media groups in Europe able to come up with the money to finance a big-budget production. A decade ago, there was only a handful.

    Their number has exploded, Mr Bessi said, because of the growth of United States pay-TV networks and the entry of video giants online such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Sony, each of which needs around four big series a year.

    Public tastes are also in play. European viewers have now come to expect cinematic quality after watching US offerings such as Game Of Thrones, each episode of which costs an average US$6 million (S$8.1 million). They are demanding the same standard from their local TV productions.

    The result is a sea change for European networks. Before 2010, co-productions were rare.

    "Now we see partnerships no one would have thought possible," said Anne Mensah, the head of drama for British network Sky.

    A push is certainly on to bring out splashy, expensive shows on the Old Continent. One example is Versailles, a Canal+ co-production with Italian and Canadian companies budgeted at 27 million euros.

    Another is The Refugees, a science-fiction series whose lead co-producers are BBC Worldwide and Spanish TV giant Atresmedia.

    Many writers in several countries are ready to work in English, French studio Gaumont's vice-chief executive, Christophe Riandee, told the US cinema industry magazine Variety this week. "What we are seeing is the birth of a European creative community," he said.