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French, Italian State Broadcasters Join Forces to Counter U.S. Streaming Giants

Variety logo Variety 6/21/2017 Nick Vivarelli
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ROME – France Televisions and Italy’s RAI have joined forces to co-produce a wide range of high-end English-language content for global distribution – including TV dramas, documentaries, animation series and entertainment formats – in a strategic pact meant to counter the growing force of U.S. streaming services in Europe.

Top executives from the two state broadcasters said at a Rome press conference Wednesday that the growth of Netflix and Amazon brought them together in this wide-ranging co-production partnership. France Televisions managing director Xavier Couture even suggested that the pact could be a possible first step of a broader alliance of European pubcasters to counter SVOD juggernauts from the U.S. and elsewhere.

“These players from the U.S., such as Netflix and Amazon, are very powerful, and they all have stories to tell that are not our own,” Couture said in his prepared remarks.

“But Europe is the most powerful cultural region in the world. We can counter them together,” he added.

The France Televisions exec went on to note that “we are the first [members] of a big family that must be the European family of cultural television,” which could include other pubcasters as partners in the future.

In a similar vein, RAI managing director Mario Orfeo noted that “the world of media and television is coming under very strong competition, especially by global players that have more resources.”

“It’s therefore important that RAI, after its agreements with [Franco-German publicly funded network] Arte and [Swiss pubcaster] RSI, forges this alliance,” he said.

Projects in the pipeline are being rigorously kept under wraps, but Variety understands that they include a drama on the origins and expansion of the Mafia, a high-profile documentary on Pompeii, and an animation series set in France.

The agreement between France Televisions and RAI is unusual if not unprecedented because the two prominent pubcasters will develop content together through an ongoing active collaboration between their respective production departments and also single networks. Details about how much each broadcaster will be investing were not disclosed.

Rai accounts for around 70% of Italian TV drama funding. France Televisions also spends hundreds of millions of euros a year on original drama. But both need to make more high-end product as local audiences become more sophisticated thanks to pay-TV and streaming offerings and international sales become crucial to recoup costs.

Couture said that the high-end content that France and Italy would be producing would be English-language “in order to be able to compete on the global market.”

RAI recently made a foray in the international TV arena as a major co-financer of “Medici” and also has crime show “Suburra” in the works, in an unusual partnership with Netflix, as well as a series based on Elena Ferrante’s bestselling novel “My Brilliant Friend” co-financed with HBO. France Televisions is especially strong in documentaries and animation for the international market.

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