M+E Daily

EES 2021: SVOD is Driving U.S. Demand for Foreign Content, Whip Media Says

There is increased demand for movies and TV shows from outside the U.S. and that demand is being driven largely by the growth of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services, according to Eric Steinberg, media research and insights lead at Whip Media.

Hollywood used to export lots of content abroad but “we didn’t see a lot of [content] coming back to our shores,” he said July 21 during the Audiences and Platforms breakout session “Attracting Regional Audiences with Original Content: The Latest Trends Among the Biggest Names in Streaming” at the Entertainment Evolution Symposium (EES).

“Now that is changing [and] it’s SVODs that are powering this phenomenon,” he noted.

Major SVOD players including Netflix, Disney and Amazon are expanding traditional distribution models and, as a result of the proliferation of those services and their recommendation engines, we have seen non-U.S.-originating titles find success outside their home regions, he said.

“Getting locally-produced content can be a very valuable investment,” he noted, explaining how the big SVOD companies are “doubling down” on international content.

About 38% of the content Netflix is developing is non-English language and it’s doubling its investment in such content, he said, pointing to a comment made by Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer: “The more authentically local shows are, the more likely they are to play around the world.”

Meanwhile, 24% of Disney Plus content is non-English language and Disney plans to spend up to $9 billion a year on content for Disney Plus by 2024, including 50 international projects, Steinberg said.

Amazon has been doubling its production of local-language content each year since 2017, he noted. That makes sense when you consider that, out of Amazon Prime Video’s 200 million subscribers, the number of international subscribers increased 80% in 2020, according to Whip Media.

And Apple and HBO also increased their spending on local-language content to attract international subscribers to Apple TV Plus (now available in more than 100 countries) and HBO Max (expected to be available in more than 50 countries by the end of 2021), according to Whip Media.

Underscoring how much foreign programming is catching on in the U.S., Steinberg noted that, from 2018-2021, the share of foreign titles viewed in the country has gone from a little under 8% to over 16%.

The number of non-U.S. shows in the Netflix top 50 is increasing and a growing number of countries are being represented, he said.

The more diverse array of programming is gaining traction around the world, creating more choices for content buyers everywhere, including the U.S. But having the right insights are needed to stay relevant in today’s market, according to Whip Media.

“Streaming video is at least for me the most transformative phenomenon in recent years in the media world,” Steinberg said. “A by-product of that is that it has enabled content to travel and succeed beyond the borders within which it was created.”

Whip has the “data that will help describe that, quantify it and, ultimately, help you make better decisions whether you’re a buyer or a seller,” he told viewers.

In addition to Mediamorph (acquired by Whip Media in 2019 and used by all the major studios and most of the major platforms globally) and the tvdb-crowdsourced platform (also acquired by it in 2019) that feeds data into that, Whip Media has the TV Time consumer-facing, free app, he pointed out.

TV Time, acquired by Whip Media in 2016, now has 18 million users globally and has gathered over 20 billion insights from users to date about more than 5 million titles, he noted.

Steinberg took a closer look at how well the Netflix shows Lupin (French) and Sky Rojo (Spanish) are performing.

That is happening now, in part, because SVOD services are not as reliant on scheduling or promotion as artificial intelligence-driven suggestion engines do the heavy lifting, he said.

He went on to point to a “case study” on the British TV show The Serpent, which he noted was a hit in the U.K. on BBC and BBC Player, and then went global on Netflix and found success around the world, including in the U.S.

A big reason why that U.S. success came on Netflix can be chalked up to the “power of the Netflix suggestion engine,” he said.

Steinberg then turned his attention to Japanese anime, which he said has found success globally, adding the big SVOD players have noticed. Netflix commissioned 16 projects from a Tokyo team to develop locally and put on its platform globally, he said.

“Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, getting beyond your borders for material is sound business and Whip Media can help you do it because we have the data that informs these decisions and can help your find the right content for you or, if you’re a seller, the right platform,” he said in conclusion.

The Entertainment Evolution Symposium event was produced by the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Pepperdine’s Graziadio Business School, and MESA. The event was sponsored by Whip Media, PacketFabric, 5th Kind, Qumulo, EIDR, Klio and the Trusted Partner Network.