The latest data from Show Tracker demonstrates how the number of timely international broadcast premieres of the latest US TV shows have been declining season-on-season, with the 2020/21 season taking a particular dip due to the impact of COVID-19.
COVID is not the only factor at play in this decline of linear premieres around the world. Channel groups owned by US studios once accounted for the majority of premieres but in the last TV season their premieres were overtaken by other Pay TV channels for the first time. As Studios are shifting more of their focus onto their SVOD services and vertical integration, their channels have become less active buyers as a result.
In increased cases studios are taking the decision to shut down their channels entirely like Disney across many Asian markets with the hope to drive viewers to Disney+ instead. For other studios like WarnerMedia they intend to adopt a hybrid approach, with HBO Max the focus but their linear services continuing to hold an important role. Hear more about this strategy from Warner in the latest episode of Inside Content - The TV Industry Podcast, with Pierre Branco of WarnerMedia.
The latest Show Tracker data from the 2021 fall season has also shown that less US broadcasters are commissioning shows than ever. While TV shows commissioned by SVOD services of course are able to find homes on broadcast abroad, increased vertical integration activity across the world makes it harder than ever for third party broadcasters to get the latest content.
The other contributing factor to this decline in numbers is the propensity for international broadcasters to elect to acquire older TV shows for their service that have nonetheless, up until that point, not aired in their home country.
Multiple volume deals between studios and Canadian broadcasters keep their acquisition numbers up well higher than any other Show Tracker market, with over 90% of premieres in 2021 on Canada being the latest TV shows, often simulcast across US and Canadian networks at the same time.
42% of first window premieres in 2021 on broadcast services were older TV shows, with German broadcasters having been focused on acquiring older TV shows for some time. Italy however engaged even more in this type of activity, with the market having the most first window premieres in 2021 after Canada, buoyed by 30 titles from older TV seasons.
Non-Studio owned broadcasters and Pay TV operators are also changing focus with digital only premieres within their markets - either on their catch-up services, acting as AVOD in some cases, or through SVOD services that they own.
NENT’s Viaplay has long held a strong position in the Nordics, bolstered by volume deals with Sony, for some time and most recently launching the service in Poland. Meanwhile Nine Entertainment’s SVOD in Australia Stan has been the market’s top buyer for many years, engaging in volume deals with ViacomCBS and Lionsgate.
Canal+ continues to premiere TV series on linear from a wide variety of distributors for both France and Poland, acquiring almost double the number of TV shows for its Polish channels over its French. Any linear acquisition can still have a big value on the digital side, which Canal+ recognised by either stacking or boxsetting all of its acquisitions from 2021 on myCanal in France or NC+Go in Poland. As a Pay TV provider it does provide digital only packages to its customers but rather than launch a service as a competitor to the big streamers it instead has opted to partner with them, providing customers options to bundle their service with Disney+ and Netflix.
While digital-only premieres on broadcast catchup services have been going down, when these debuts are taken in combination with broadcaster or operator owned SVOD premieres it is revealed that almost half of non-studio broadcaster first window acquisitions did not premiere with a linear transmission.
Broadcasters have been diversifying their service portfolio with digital initiatives and SVOD for some time in response to growing competition from multiple global SVOD services. This latest shift in the amount of content going to broadcasters without a linear debut suggests that these strategies will continue to take the focus of multiple broadcasters, particularly those who see an opportunity to expand beyond their home borders. While these digital-only figures are high they do not suggest a massive change in direction set to affect all broadcasters but rather a concentration of activity from major players like Nine Entertainment and NENT.
For those who aren’t willing to invest in their own local competitors to global streamers there is always the option to partner together instead, with Pay TV operators leveraging their longstanding relationships with studios to lead the charge in the super-aggregation of SVOD services. Whatever decision broadcasters or operators take it is clear that a diversity of approach can help make them more resilient against the evolving media landscape, while also providing new opportunities to distributors looking to sell to them.