TBI Weekly: Why the Disney + strategy in France speaks to a global truth
Disney + has been out in force here at the Série Series in France, which is quite appropriate considering the proximity to the suitably palace-like Château de Fontainebleau. But what can we learn about the global scripting strategy?
How successful Disney + has been to date often depends on your point of view.
For many, subscriber growth regularly points it out at its quarterly investor meetings to an overwhelming victory for Mouse House, with a number so large that it is only beaten by Netflix.
For others, this number hides the complexity of being a global streamer in a world of amazing diversity, where viewers in different countries want to see content of all tastes in countless different ways. And it does not even touch how they want to pay for it.
So it’s no surprise that TBI is struggling to remember a time when so many executives have been so open about the fact that they have no idea which way the content business is going. The question of looking at crystal balls has never been so open.
Still, there are red threads that go across the current uncertainty in the power market, with Disney executives here in the Series Series providing at least some of the answers.
While Netflix now appears to have dropped what appeared to be a “catch all” approach to commissioning in recent years, Disney + is among players who have gone straight to a more focused scripting approach in countries it considers key.
Apple has also followed this handbook, and there seems to be little doubt that lucky timing and changing opinions from Wall Street about the value of content – and more specifically how much should be spent on it – have played a role in the strategies.
For Disney + and its Star brand, the result is just a touch of French originals. Pauline Dauvin, its VP of programming, production and acquisitions, has had her team in place for two years, but she did not make any major announcements here about the money Mouse House would add to local series or its budding development overview.
Instead, almost 20 script programs were fired each year, with five set for 2022 and about the same for 2023.
Of this year’s list, Oussekine is what stands out. The drama is a rather tragic tale that explores how a French-Algerian student died during protests in France in the 1980s, and although it seems to burn slowly but strongly on the international front, it has also been a big hit in France.
This may not seem like a surprise given that it was a French story, from French Itinéraire Productions, commissioned for Disney + in France – but it is something of a stark contrast to other streamers’ attempts at local originals. Netflix’s first French show, for example, MarseilleEven Lupinewhich was popular outside the country, has not managed to reap nearly as much domestic praise.
The trick seems to have been to focus exclusively on a show that would delight the local French audience. This was not an attempt to create a show set in France that would travel on the Disney network around the world.
Latin American input
A similar strategy is taking place in Latin America, albeit on a broader scale. Disney has long been a producer in the region, but they are now increasing commissions for their own DTC offering Star +, with Mariana Perez and Leo Aranguibel both present in France.
Perez, who leads development and production for Star + across Lat Am, pointed to the experience Santa Evitawhich traces the less told story of what happened to Evita Peron’s body after she died.
“We look at stories and what they’re about right down to the bone,” she says. “We are always looking for the emotional connection with events that took place in real life and that then allow us to relive these historical facts.”
For Aranguibel, Head of Production Operations and Strategy for Star + Lat Am, Santa Evita “is part of a phenomenon about how we can connect with the regional public.” The story is typically Argentine and, more importantly, based on truth.
“It’s what we call true life fiction, it sounds contradictory, but in fact it can be defined as real – life stories that can be dramatized to connect with the audience. It creates the overriding principle of our content, it’s the best way. to connect with an audience. “
Disney has also been keen to reinforce – both with its early assignments and through its leaders’ public appearances – that the streaming service is not just focused on family-friendly content. Dauvin, Perez and Aranguibel were on appropriate message here on the Série Series.
As Tom and Pammy took Disney traditionalists by the throat and forced them to rethink what a Mouse House show might look like, it also has Oussekine and to some extent Santa Evita, on a more focused front in France and Latin America, respectively.
“Nobody really expected us to have it Oussekine and it really changed the perception of Disney +, says Dauvin. The fact that the show apparently received “good press coverage” seems to have further strengthened the approach.
Dauvin also added that she wanted to “support writers” and did not want to format projects – there is no desire to “disneyfy” ideas, she said. – It also takes time [to create a new show] and that is what we like during our development, she continues.
None of this is to say that Disney + executives are not looking for series that will travel. Dauvin said it herself, adding that she talks daily with colleagues in the UK and elsewhere about new ideas that may work elsewhere. And of course, the shows that cut through globally are the crown jewels of any global streamer, which is why Disney demands global rights for French shows – as she told TBI – as much as it could be a drama from Britain or the United States.
But overall, the sum of the message may be greater than the parts. Gone are the days when a global streamer would take a multi-million dollar punt on a drama with the hope that it would land and only a few red faces if it failed.
In a world where prayer counters are looking more closely at streaming as a viable business, the scrutiny of commissioning is skyrocketing. Streaming’s approach to the script has been recalibrated and there is an ever closer focus on local, well – cooked food that has gone through a development process to remove as much risk as possible.
The end result for producers seems to be fewer performances ordered in the years to come, but that may not be so bad.