Amazon said it’s not in the volume game and talked up a select number of hyper-local shows, while Netflix dished on plans to rev up non-English-language originals. The message from HBO Max was that it’s laying the groundwork for its international launch, but details will have to wait until after it has gotten through its domestic launch next May.
Amazon’s European originals director, Georgia Brown, said its originals strategy is “hyper-local, with a spotlight on local production, local language to drive subscribers in those territories.” Talking up the potential of non-English-language fare internationally, she said that “language is kind of irrelevant now,” and “audiences are very open – they just want fantastic content and to fall into those worlds.”
Netflix also warmed to the non-English-language theme at the Content London Drama Summit. But unlike Amazon, it wants quantity as well as quality. International originals boss Kelly Luegenbiehl said it would double down on non-English fare, ramping up from the 80 or so originals it already has in this category. It’s looking for a foreign-language “Bandersnatch” interactive show as well as unscripted, comedy and kids’ content.
How will Netflix’s global programming strategy change in an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape? It won’t, at least for the time being. “What we’re doing is working, and so we want to be doing more of that,” Luegenbiehl said.“If people stop watching our shows, I think [that] will be an indication for us that we need to make a shift, but that’s not happening.”
HBO Max boss Kevin Reilly was on hand to talk about the service’s upcoming launch in the U.S. and then Latin America. Details of rollout in Europe and elsewhere are still taking shape.
HBO has recently extended an output deal with Comcast’s Sky in the U.K., Germany, and Italy, meaning that SVOD launches in those countries are unlikely, which rules out three of Europe’s big five territories. Elsewhere there are HBO Europe services, which have been pushing into original programming. “The exact timing of when HBO Max will be offered in Europe – we haven’t yet pinned that down, but we’re starting now with laying the tracks, the foundations for those services,” Reilly said.
What did emerge is that HBO Max will be different country by country. “Unlike some of our competitors – say, Netflix – where it is the same service in every territory, I think we can anticipate that the HBO Max product and alliances underneath it will likely take different forms in different territories. It won’t be one service, necessarily, that is globally transported.”
With a number of relationships in place, “we don’t necessarily want to unravel those existing businesses,” Reilly said. He added that, while programming is being yanked from rival streamers, “we’re not now closing down all pipes to just service one business.”
Reilly told the London crowd of international producers and distributors that the door was open to sell-in ideas for the U.S. HBO Max, but ahead of launch the service is pretty fully stocked. “I want to encourage everybody to engage with us in partnership – just not today,” he said.
Reilly also talked about ultimately offering an ad-supported streaming product and offered encouraging words for producers in terms of sharing viewing information. “I don’t personally think it’s viable to hold all the information in-house anymore and just send up smoke signals periodically about how everything is going. We’re going to look to have a more transparent approach to that.”
Reilly’s comment came on the same day that Scott Stuber, Netflix’s head of original films, said in an onstage conversation with Variety editor-in-chief Claudia Eller that the company was “building towards” greater transparency about viewership and other metrics.