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Israeli TV Producers Branch Out Onto the Web

Variety logo Variety 12/21/2016 Debra Kamin
© Provided by Variety

TEL AVIV – Israeli television, incubator of such hits as “In Treatment” and “Homeland,” has long been a barometer of global small-screen trends. Now series developers in the tiny country are exploring a new frontier: the web.

A number of edgy web-only shows are creating a stir in the Holy Land, including “Confess TLV” (pictured), about the seedy world of Internet hookups in Tel Aviv, and “The Israeli Girls,” whose all-female millennial cast explores gender issues. Israeli directors see the web as a fast, direct route to global audiences, allowing them to bypass the laborious process of first finding a local broadcaster and then shopping their content abroad.

“A lot of young people are sitting around in coffee shops in Tel Aviv developing their next TV series, and this makes it a lot easier for them,” says renowned Israeli director Eytan Fox, whose own web series, “Bar Mitzvah,” will premiere on the BlackPills digital-content platform in early 2017. “You don’t have to raise the money or go through [broadcast here]. It’s cheap.”

“Bar Mitzvah,” about a boy, his two dads, and an eccentric Israeli tour guide, stars Ilan Peled and Amanda Barrie and was produced by Adama Productions.

Moshe Rosenthal, creator and director of “Confess TLV,” appreciates the creative control that direct-to-web offers. “It’s not just about the content, but also about the experience, so it was very important for me to put my show on a website that would create an interactive experience,” he says. “We wanted to try and keep the power in our hands.”

Like TV formats before them, many Israeli web series are boundary-busting and sharp, produced by people like “Confess TLV’s” Jake Witzenfeld, whose documentary on gay Palestinians, “Oriented,” recently earned a distribution deal with Netflix.

Other hot shows include “The Jews Are Coming,” first streamed onto screens at local bars before landing a network spot, and “Messiah,” a mockumentary that found an online home after failing to be picked up for cable. Israeli powerhouse Keshet Media has its own line of web series in its catalogue, as well as a home for user-created content on its popular Mako portal, while telenovela giant DoriMedia runs MeMeMe, a multi-channel network for YouTube content.

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