Do You Think Internationally When Developing A Series?

Sam Register discussing Warner Bros. animation at MIP Jr. 2011

 Via: MIPBlog

Do you think you should?

If not, why not?

Going on right now, MIPCOM is pretty much the convention/expo/gathering when it comes to selling shows to international buyers. Thousands come from all over the world to Cannes to see, hear, meet and schmooze about TV programmes. It’s also preceded each year by MIPJr. a similar event for kids shows that is ostensibly the same format as it’s big brother.

MIPCOM is an important part of the global TV ecosystem because it allows content producers to sell that content to others. It’s much cheaper (and easier) to simply sell the rights to a local player and have them handle re-dubbing, marketing, scheduling, etc. Essentially what you get is money for your show with relatively little effort.

So should you develop your show with this event in mind?

Or rather, should you have an international mindset when developing a TV show or film?

The answer is you probably should, not to the extent that you design your entire show around the international market, but you should be aware that certain things don’t play too well in the foreign markets, such as:

  • Westerns – The only place with a wild west is America, most other countries have nothing comparable so they aren’t nearly as interested
  • Military – DreamWorks discovered that as half-decent a film as Monsters Vs. Aliens is, it did relatively poorly internationally because of the heavy military theme didn’t resonate as loudly with foreigners as it did with Americans.
  • You get the picture

The important point is that if a show skews too heavily towards American culture, it might be a difficult sell abroad, resulting in the network being more reluctant to buy it given that international sales are normally necessary to make money.

Of course the opposite is true too. You shouldn’t base you’re entire show around what the international market wants but you should at least be aware that your show will likely be sold abroad at some point and adjust your development accordingly.

The most popular TV shows out there are so for a reason, and that is that they have universal appeal regardless of the culture you live in. The simple reason this is so is because they make culture irrelevant. Think of SpongeBob, where you live has nothing to do with the show, Bikini Bottom could be anywhere in the world!

Just keep an open mind, that’s all!

PS. Dave Levy wrote a great book on pitching and developing TV shows

PSS. Don’t forget to read Steve Schnier’s informative The Pitch Bible Blog

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