Local Markets Change Channels

Is American entertainment a bellweather for other American products around the world? American multinationals must certainly hope not, based on this recent article. It seems that American studios are no longer making “must see TV” for markets around the world. Here are a few key excerpts (in bold):

The shift counters a longstanding assumption that TV shows produced in the United States would continue to overshadow locally produced shows from Singapore to Sicily. The changes are coming at a time when the influence of the United States on international affairs has chafed friends and foes alike, and some people are expressing relief that at least on television American culture is no longer quite the force it once was.

I find these developments dramatic. It was assumed as late as early last year that American multinationals were going to swallow the world whole. And yet here we find local markets fighting back quite nicely, thank you very much.

A worldwide economic boom has brought foreign broadcasters more advertising revenue, which they have invested in local programming. Initially, many shows emulated successful American formats. In Germany, for instance, a long-running hit called “Das Traumschiff,” or the “Dream Ship,” is a remake of the American hit “Love Boat.” But increasingly, homegrown programs mined historical events that resonated with their audience or added local twists to popular myths.

According to a survey by the European Audiovisual Observatory, the highest ranking show in Italy last year was “Uno Bianca,” a dramatization based on a crime gang. No. 1 in France was “Julie Lescaut,” a long-running detective series.

So what does this mean for American studios? It means they have to work a little bit harder for their foreign revenues. Subtitles alone don’t cut it. They need to localize entertainment.

Some studios, like Sony, are countering the trend by opening production centers abroad to better create shows tailored to local tastes.

“Mein Leben und Ich,” a German show produced by Sony that translates as “Me and My Life,” about the angst of a teenage girl, is shown on Friday evenings at 9:15 and is first in its time slot. “A Rich and Famous Governor,” a Sony production about a kindhearted but bumbling government official, has just been approved for broadcast in Hong Kong and China.

I’m quite relieved to see locally produced shows regaining popularity. About 10 years ago, I made my first trip outside the U.S., to Australia. I was certain that Australian television would be as exotic as the country itself. But when I arrived, most of what I found was American made, from Married with Children to Baywatch. Fortunately, there was a show that I could love: Neighbors.

Here’s to a few more Neighbors.

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