The Fast Five: The Industry Gears Up For Awards Season
September 9, 2019
The Fast Five:
With the Emmys just around the corner, all eyes are shifting to the next big awards season as Oscar® contenders launch at Venice and TIFF. But the big news is still happening in TV land, with Hulu choosing one book universe over another, product placement finds its way into streaming television, and some speculation is made on which countries Netflix will produce more original shows in.
Hulu Chooses Margaret Atwood Over John Grisham
Hulu seems to be going all-in on one author’s shared universe while saying goodbye to another’s. The Disney-owned streaming service has opted to develop The Testaments, a new series based on Margaret Atwood’s follow-up novel to The Handmaid’s Tale. It is currently unclear how MGM TV will handle the book adaptation, but they are in discussions with current Handmaid’s Tale showrunner Bruce Miller about whether it would make sense to work into the current lore of the ongoing series that has already moved past its source material. The Handmaid’s Tale was the first show from a streaming service to win an Emmy for Best Series, so it makes sense that Hulu would want to stay in that world for as long as possible.
Hulu simultaneously canceled its plans for a shared television universe based on John Grisham’s popular legal thrillers. The first two series were to be based on the books Rogue Lawyer and The Rainmaker featuring character and plot line crossovers. The potential Grisham series highlights the type of unique storytelling opportunities that exist in television, and the lengths creators have to go in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace. The ambitious project would require two writers’ rooms working in tandem to make sure both shows could be enjoyed alone or together. A huge task for any showrunner, but one that writer Michael Seitzman seems more than eager to tackle, as he and ABC Signature Studios shop the high-profile series around other networks.
ProSiebenSat.1, the German media conglomerate, has decided to take advantage of our culture’s current obsession with mergers and acquisitions by trying to sell its Red Arrow Studios production hub. Red Arrow was created only two years ago by ProSiebenSat.1 as a way of aligning its various assets into one studio. The move saw its 21 international production companies that were part of Red Arrow Entertainment combined with Studio71, and the result has been an emerging media powerhouse with companies like Fabrik Entertainment, Gravitas Ventures, and Kinetic Content, as well as programs like Amazon’s popular Bosch in its portfolio. ProSiebenSat.1 hasn’t committed to a sale, but is feeling out offers to see what kind of deal comes its way in a media landscape where the best way to fend off competition is acquiring as much of it as possible.
As television budgets continue to skyrocket, producers and networks are constantly looking for new ways to lower the costs. One of television’s most time-honored traditions—the term soap opera was created because the shows were literally funded by soap companies—is finally finding its way to streaming services as more brands are showing up in popular series via product placement. And while Cheddar states that Netflix placement deals can cost a brand between $300,000 to $1 million, anybody who craved a sip of New Coke after watching the latest season of Stranger Things will understand why these deals can be beneficial for both parties.
But brand integration is a double-edged sword for creators. Some producers are given permission from streaming services to secure their own product placement and this boost in funds could make the difference in casting a recognizable guest star, or being able to afford an expensive sequence that benefits the show. However, it’s not without its challenges. Writers have to find a way to organically work a product into their show without disrupting the flow or distracting the audience. Brands also aren’t going to pay that much money and then allow the creative team carte blanche on how to proceed. Rules are put in place on what characters say about the product, or how long they interact with it, which explains why some producers still choose not to pursue brand integration.
While Netflix may have lost subscribers in the United States for the first time this year, part of its overall plan is international growth by producing local-language content in markets where it believes it can pick up subscribers. Ampere Analysis recently looked at the countries Netflix operates in and highlighted some areas the streaming service would benefit from ramping up original content. Underserved countries include Australia, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Russia—an area that has yet to receive a single local-language original by Netflix. Ampere does admit that the reason may be regulatory issues faced by Netflix if it attempts to produce in Russia.
Australia could be the prime candidate for future investment. The study found that Australia has a similar subscriber rate as France and Mexico, but significantly fewer local originals. There are only 12 Australian shows for the 4.5 million subscribers, compared to 23 French originals for France’s five million subscribers and 40 local-language shows in Mexico for the same number of subscribers. There’s also a chance Netflix considers all English-language originals to be beneficial to every English-speaking country, in which case Australia benefits from Netflix’s many British and American shows in a way non-English speaking countries do not.
With the 76th Annual Venice International Film Festival wrapping up and the Toronto International Film Festival currently underway, the industry has turned its eye from Emmy® Award voting to Academy Award® voting as many contenders make their world premieres. Netflix used Venice to showcase one of its Oscar hopefuls with the world premiere of the Scott Z. Burns written The Laundromat. The Golden Lion Award went to the Todd Phillips and Scott Silver penned super-villain deconstruction pic, Joker. Over at TIFF, studios are gearing up for the world premieres of contenders like The Goldfinch and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. All eyes will also be on Toronto’s People’s Choice Award, which was won in past years by Best Picture winners and nominees Green Book, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, La La Land, The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave and Silver Linings Playbook. This is a much better indicator than the Golden Lion, which, with the exception of Roma and The Shape of Water in the past two years, hasn’t gone to a Best Picture nominee since 2005’s Brokeback Mountain.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.