In a recent article, the Italian daily La Stampa reported that, since the advent of streaming, U.S. dominance in the international TV sales market has greatly diminished.
To drive the point home, the newspaper listed drama series produced in different countries that became popular worldwide. However, most of the series listed were streaming originals, so we at VideoAge elected to replace them with equally successful broadcast series since made-for-streaming shows are not typically sold market by market worldwide.
Countries that were successful with their broadcast series (such as Canada and Israel) quickly found themselves being tapped as good sources of content for streamers such as Netflix and Amazon. This became a boon for local production companies, but reduced the countries’ overall international sales. On the other hand, in countries such as Turkey, where local productions are mostly made for broadcast television, international series have flourished, so much so that Turkish trade associations claim to be the world’s second largest exporter after the U.S., which remains the single largest TV content export country.
A roundup of a few of the world’s most successful international TV series outside the U.S. included France’s Dix Pour Cent (Call My Agent), a successful dramedy soon to go into a sixth season. Produced by France Televisions, it premiered on France 2 in 2015. The success of French TV series is also shown by the rate at which streamers gobble up their productions, the latest of which is Laetitia, produced and distributed by France Televisions, and now airing on HBO, which has North American rights. International sales of French TV programs reached 196.9 million euro in 2020, according to a CNC-UniFrance report released last month.
According to a report prepared by Bath, U.K.-based content consultant 3Vision for U.K. trade association PACT, in 2020, U.K. TV exports reached £1.48 billion (U.S. $2 billion). Dramas such as His Dark Materials (which aired on BBC1, was produced by Bad Wolf, and was distributed by BBC Studios), The War of the Worlds (which was produced by the BBC and distributed by ITV), The Feed (which was produced by Studio Lambert for Virgin TV and distributed by All3Media), and Doctor Who (which aired on BBC1, was produced by the BBC, and was distributed by BBC Studios) accounted for a large portion of all international revenue.
Another international success story was La Casa de Papel (Money Heist), a drama that premiered on Spain’s Antena 3 in 2017 and was produced by Atresmedia (formerly Grupo Antena 3). This is an interesting story that explains how a locally produced series could be appreciated more by international viewers than their domestic counterparts. After seeing success at first, La Casa’s audience began to dwindle. But thanks to the intervention of Netflix it became an international hit after the streamer acquired the rights for subsequent episodes. The people behind the series added the Italian folk song “Bella Ciao,” an international hit that’s been sung in 40 different languages, to its soundtrack. In addition, a prop used on the show, the mask of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, became the international symbol of resistance now seen in various demonstrations.
From Denmark, there was Borgen, a political drama produced by DR, the Danish public broadcaster. Borgen is the informal name of Christiansborg Palace, where three branches of the Danish government reside. The series premiered on DR-1 in 2010. A fourth season will be streamed by Netflix in 2022. For years, Scandinavian countries have been successful with a TV genre called “Nordic Noir.” Series in this genre include The Killing (which first aired on DR-1 in 2007) and The Bridge (which was first broadcast simultaneously on Sveriges Television and Denmark Radio in 2011).
Italy has had a series of international hits, including: Medici, a 2016 series that was produced by Lux Video for RAI-1; L’amica Geniale (My Brilliant Friend), which was produced by Fantango, distributed by RaiCom, and aired on RAI-1 in 2018; and Il Commissario Montalbano (Inspector Montalbano), which was produced by Palomar, distributed by RaiCom, premiered on RAI-2 in 1999, and continued airing on RAI-1 until March 2021.
In 2019, Canale 5 first broadcast Il Silenzio dell’Acqua, produced by Ve-la Film and sold internationally by Mediaset Distribution. In 2020 Canale 5 aired Oltre la Soglia (On The Brink), produced by Paper Moon and licensed by Mediaset Distribution.
Before and after the international success of Das Boot, originally produced in 1981 with a TV sequel in 2018, Germany produced several major TV exports. Babylon Berlin first aired on Sky Deutschland in 2017. It was produced by X Filme Creative Pool and distributed by Beta Film. With a 33 million euro (U.S. $39 million) price tag, it was one of Germany’s most expensive productions to date. Das Boot was a co-production between Bavaria Fiction, Sky Deutschland, and Sonar Entertainment. Initially, Sonar also distributed the series internationally, but since 2019 Das Boot has been distributed by NBCUniversal Global Distribution.
There was also Pagan Peak, which was adapted from Scandinavian The Bridge. It was produced by Wiedemann & Berg Television for Sky Deutschland and aired in 2019. It is distributed by Beta Film. Then there was Perfume, which was produced and distributed by Constantin Film for ZDFneo. It first aired it in 2018.
For India, we have to go back to 2008 to find a series that became an international hit. It’s Balika Vadhu (Child Bride), which was broadcast on Color TV, produced by Sphere Origins, and distributed by Viacom18.
Israel has been a good source for adaptations for years, starting with BeTipul (In Therapy), which was first broadcast on HOT3 in 2005 and eventually adapted by 13 countries, including HBO in the U.S. as In Treatment. Another recent adaptation success was Prisoners of War, which was produced by Keshet, and first aired on Channel 2 in 2010. Even though it had limited international sales, it was acquired by 20th Century Fox and adapted into the series Homeland, which ran on Showtime until 2020, and experienced good worldwide sales.
From the UAE, Qalb Al Adala (Justice) was produced by Beelink Productions, and aired on OSN Ya Hala TV network in 2017.
From South Korea came Mr. Sunshine, a historical drama that was produced by Studio Dragon, distributed by CJ E&M, and aired on tvN beginning in 2018.
Australia has had some international successes. There was Packed to the Rafters, which was produced by Spectrum Films and aired on the Seven Network starting in 2008. More recently, there was Wentworth, which was produced by Fremantle and aired on SoHo (which closed down in 2016) in 2013.
Argentina has also had some success with local productions, albeit modestly as compared with the volume of a few years back. In 2019 TV Pública (formerly ATC) broadcast El Marginal, a series produced by Underground Producciones and distributed by NBCUniversal’s Telemundo Enterprises (Underground was acquired by Telemundo). Also in 2019, Telefe aired Little Victoria (Pequeña Victoria), which was produced by Spain’s MediaPro Studio and distributed by ViacomCBS International Studios (which also owns Telefe). Recently, a spin-off, Pequeñas Victorias, aired. And in 2019, Canal 13 broadcast Argentina Tierra de Amor y Venganza, produced and distributed by Pol-ka Producciones.
Mexico launched two major telenovelas this year, both of which first aired on Televisa’s Las Estrellas TV network: La Desalmada and Vencer el Pasado, produced by Televisa and distributed internationally by Televisa Internacional. In 2020, Televisa produced, aired and distributed the series Te Doy la Vida.
Below features a dedicated focus on Turkey, a powerhouse of international content sales, with hundreds of production and sales companies, whose titles have come to rival U.S. exports.
Today, Turkey is a powerhouse of international TV content sales, with hundreds of production and sales companies, whose content is a staple of TV networks all around the world.
One such hit is historical drama Resurrection Ertugrul, which premiered on TRT in 2014, was sold to global broadcasters, and eventually landed on Netflix. In September 2020, TRT premiered three series — all distributed by MISTCO — that became international favorites: The Innocents, produced by OGM Pictures; Melek: A Mother’s Struggle, produced by US Yapim; and The Great Seljuks: Guardians of Justice, produced by Akli Film.
In the romantic comedy genre, Can Yaman starrer Daydreamer, distributed by Global Agency, has reached worldwide success recently. Produced by Gold Film, it first aired on Star TV in 2018. Romantic drama Love Is in The Air, produced by MF Yapim and distributed by MADD, first aired on FOX TV Turkey in 2020, before becoming an international hit.
In 2019 ATV first broadcast Hercai, a Mia Yapim production. ATV sold 256 of its episodes to 49 countries around the world.
In early 2021 Kanal D broad-cast Recipe of Love, which was produced by NTC Medya and distributed worldwide by Kanal D International. In 2017 Kanal D aired Black and White Love (Siyah Beyaz Ask) from D productions, also distributed by KDI. This past spring the series (Amor En Blanco Y Negro) debuted in the U.S. in Spanish on Kanal D’s Drama channel.
The Ambassador’s Daughter (Sefirin Kizi) was broadcast in 2019 on Star TV, produced by 03 Medya & NGM. Bitter Lands (Bir Zamanlar Cukurova) produced by TIMS&B Productions, aired on ATV in 2018, both series are distributed by InterMedya.
In 2017 FOX Turkey broadcast Woman, a series produced by Medyapim and MF Yapim, and subsequently sold by Calinos to 72 countries.
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