MIA 2023: A spotlight on Netflix's strategy for Italy, Spain and the Nordics

The leading executives from the streaming platform shared their new projects and content strategies while highlighting the collaboration between the creative teams.

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Jenny Stjernstromer Bjork, Diego Avalos and Tinny Andreatta

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Netflix took the center on the fourth day of MIA Market. Tinny Andreatta, VP of Content Italy, Diego Avalos, VP of Content Spain and Portugal, and Jenny Stjernstromer Bjork, VP of Content Nordics, showed Netflix's European trajectory to date, reviewed strategies and considered the exciting series and film slate spanning across multiple genres from non-fiction, to comedy, to drama. Andreatta stated that Netflix teams work very closely with all the content teams globally, especially in Europe. "We have people who have such different experiences behind them, and you can trust what they say and learn very fast from what we discuss but also what the other people are making," she said.

Stjernstromer Bjork affirmed that Nordic has different countries, tonalities, languages, and histories, and Netflix needs to understand everyone. Regarding Netflix's strategy in the commissions, Andreatta asserted Netflix wants to create stories that are rooted in the cultures, in the countries, authentic stories that can speak first to the local audience and then, through dubs and subs, arrive at the rest of the world. She affirmed that being faithful in Italy means recognizing the difference between one part of the country and the other with titles such as "The Leopard," which talks about Sicily, or "La legge di Lidia Poët" in Turin. "The biggest challenge we have nowadays is to overcome the big success that Italy had in the 60s that created some stereotypes about Italy, and now the ambition is to relaunch a more modern, more actual, truer, stereotypical image of Italy," she said.

In the Nordics, authenticity is related to finding relevant stories that feel like they come from that country. "We'll continue developing Nordic Noir and crime stories, but the stories coming from the Nordics are so much more diverse, like 'Young Royals,' the love story of the prince and his forbidden love that has this super dedicated fan base, and it is coming with a third season next year," Stjernstromer Bjork said. Regarding Spain, Diego Avalos commented that authenticity in Spain means recognizing the country as multicultural with multiple languages. "We're looking at stories throughout the country and showing the depth of storytelling, culture, even different tones in the series that we do, whether it's 'Intimacy,' a thriller that we shot in Bilbao or 'Elite,' a young adult series portrayed in Madrid or 'Valeria,' where you can truly feel the relationship with four women. For us, authenticity means reflecting the lives and that every Spaniard can see themselves in some way reflected in those stories," he added.

UPCOMING PROJECTS
Netflix in the Nordics has built a slate of series and films, and now it's adding non-fiction and documentary series. "We have a format called 'Love is Blind' that comes from the US, but we've also done it in Brazil and Japan, and soon it will come in from Germany and the UK, and we're doing a Swedish version and that will come in the beginning of next year," Stjernstromer Bjork anticipated. "We will also launch the series 'Tore' at the end of October, which is amazing. William Spetz created and wrote the series, and he's also playing the lead role," she said. Stjernstromer Bjork also presented the new project "Billionaire Island," a new Norwegian drama series from the creators of '"Lilyhammer."

In Italy, Netflix is dabbling into the talent show genre by producing "Nuova Scena - Rhythm + Flow Italia." "It's a format that had incredible success in the US and France, and I like the idea that through this talent show, we also describe Italy from three different points of view, Naples, Rome, and Milan; they are different cultures," appointed Andreatta. She also mentioned big projects like "The Leopard" and "Super Sex" that "really demonstrate how much our ambition has grown as a scope and scale," she added. Diego Avalos mentioned that Netflix would launch in Spain "Society of the Snow," a film directed by J.A. Bayona that tells the real story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which in 1972 was chartered to fly a rugby team to Chile and catastrophically crashed on a glacier in the heart of the Andes, as well as "La Liga," the first sports docuseries out of Spain. "We're following the tournament, the teams, the emotions, the wins, the losses, the players through this season," Avalos said. The executive also added spinning off "Berlin" from Alex Pina, which will be released on December 29th.

DRAMA FINANCING TRENDS
The new drama production and financing models were also considered in the day. Lindsey Martin, SVP, International Co-Productions and Development, CBS Studios; Marike Muselaers, Head of International Financing and Co-Production, Nordisk Film; David Davoli, President of International of Anonymous Content, and Rachel Eggebeen, CCO, Amplify Pictures, participated of the conversation. Lindsey Martin affirmed there's a real focus on finding great local stories that can resonate globally. "CBS Studios International's biggest mission is to find local stories that can travel and continue to be a home that can attract great talent because the best shows come from writers who have a real vision, and we want to give them that support and nurture those writers and creators as best as we can," she said. Marike Muselaers asserted that Nordisk Film is trying to get more into the TV space. "Until now, they've mainly financed their TV series with a Viaplay, and they've never really had to go out and find this international financing, so that is something I'm trying to bring to Nordisk," she stated. Muselaers also admitted they've been fortunate about all their possibilities with streamers commissioning with a healthy broadcaster system. "Viaplay was announcing to commission 40 to 60 scripted projects per year, and that is indeed now moving back in market correction to a lower amount of TV series, and we're going to have to deal with that, and I think international collaborations can be an answer to that," she said.



On the other hand, David Davoli commented that Anonymous Content believes in stories and voices and vision and creativity, and "we're confident that if we can tell the right stories and have the right package, we'll be able to be one of the ones that are lucky enough to get a commission," he said. He also explained that Anonymous Content has five joint ventures a slate of 100 development projects. Rachel Eggebeen said Amplify was founded to make premium content using innovative financing models. "When we look around, we want to figure out how to help shows get made in interesting and unique ways," she said. Eggebeen stated Amplify is looking at both what's happening in America and what's happening in Europe. "American producers have much to learn from European producers," she admitted. "The production model in Europe is very efficient, content can be made premium global facing content can be made for less money, and producers traditionally own their content, which I think is something that more and more US producers would like to do," she completed. She also said Amplify had fantastic success in the unscripted documentary series space, building projects independently, financing them through post-production, using independent funds, and taking them to market more as a finished acquisition project. "The idea in the scripted space is to look at ways to bring the indie either film financing model or the indie unscripted model that we've been using to the scripted space," she said.

NEW PROJECTS
CBS Studios executive said in the past three years, the company has produced about nine co-productions, and it has two more to produce this year. "In co-productions, it's about being smart about how you put those pieces together, so we're always thinking holistically and as out of the box as possible to find the right co-production partners for a specific project. It's a very bespoke process for us, and each project is different and has different needs, whether that's a linear broadcaster or streamer. We like to try and cater to each project individually," she detailed. Lindsey Martin commented CBS Studios had made NCIS Australia. "The expectations are high; what the creator Morgan O'Neill and the team in Australia have managed to achieve is incredible. It sits alongside any other NCIS show, and CBS Network has picked up the show to air in November," she anticipated. The company will also launch another show called "The Darkness," a co-production between CBS Studios, Stampede Ventures, and Truenorth Productions in Iceland. "It is based on a bestselling book from an Icelandic author called Ragnar Jónasson, and it's a propulsive, gripping mystery thriller with crime elements," she stated.

MAIN NEEDS
For Marike Muselaers, the crime genre is not going away from Nordic countries, but she is also looking for other stories. "Light entertainment, of course, that everybody's looking for right now, that is a little bit cheaper to produce," she said. For Amplify, commented Rachel Eggebeen, they are looking at shows that can be made in English; she would love to participate in something that felt like it still had the opportunity to be a global-facing show. In the case of CBS Studios, they are trying to figure out what's going to work, what people want, what people need, what people will watch in any given moment, "but it is important to strike a balance between the IP and those bold, fresh, original completely new ideas," Lindsey Martin said.

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND SCREEN ADAPTATIONS
Animation experts Corinne Kouper, Co-Founder of TeamTO; Emanuele Di Giorgi, Co-Founder and CEO of Tunué; and Lila Hannou, VP of Creative Development and Strategy at Ellipse Animation Productions, gave details about the graphic novel adaptation into the screen and presented their most recent adaptation works. "I see a lot of diversity in the stories of graphic novels. Things are booming and blooming in the last years; the market is doing quite well," commented Lila Hannou. "There is a new generation of authors in terms of writing or drawing; they have spoken up mangas, they have spoken up American series, European series, and now they are giving us a new generation of graphic novels and European graphic novels, which is quite challenging but interesting for us because we can tell new stories," she said. "I am very passionate about adapting graphic novels because I like to love stories, but I also like to have this universe that is drawn to me. When I read a graphic novel, I have the feeling that it is done for me," affirmed Corinne Kouper. She also referred to the challenges of adapting a graphic novel. "There are different kinds of issues like the rhythm, and the big and obvious subject is always the drawings, the look and feel, the design," she explained. "I feel that sometimes it's important to change a little bit, to adapt, but to keep the spirit of the original, so it's tough; there are no rules to me, but you have to be attached to the project, and understand it well," she added. For Lila Hannou, adapting a graphic novel into an audiovisual is always a "tricky thing." "You always lose something in the process, even though you will learn so many things too, and the relationship with the authors is always key," she expressed.



OUTSTANDING PROJECTS
Emanuele Di Giorgi, Co-Founder and CEO of Tunué, mentioned the graphic novel Pera Toons created by Alessandro Perugini. He has more than 1,000 minutes of animation on YouTube, with 2 million views per day in Italy; he began in Spain in two months and made 13 million views. He has almost 1 million followers in Spain and another 5,000 in Brazil. "His concern now is if I make animation for a platform or the broadcaster, it will be different from YouTube or the same, so now the animation is more concern than opportunities, but at the same time, we are looking for a solution to this, but it's very challenging," Di Giorgi said. On the other hand, TeamTO executive presented "Ninn," a series of comic books published by a Belgian publisher called Kennes Éditions. "When I discovered this series of comic books, I was amazed by it, by the power of it and the strength of this character's story," said Corinne Kouper. The eponymous Ninn is an 11-year-old girl who spends much time in Paris' Metro. As the promotional copy puts it, "She knows every nook and cranny of the Metro and skateboarding through its convoluted tunnels is her favorite hobby.". "The series shows a multicultural and noisy part of Paris that is unrepresented, and the protagonist lives between two worlds in a self-discovery journey," she detailed. Ellipse Animation Productions executive showed "The Marsupilamis" series based on the ancient and super popular comic book. "The Marsupilami is an IP because we have comic books, children's books, video games, a 4D ride at a theme park in the south of France," Lila Hannou said. The company will release the series in 2024.

By Romina Rodriguez, from Rome

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