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How streaming is redefining what makes a global hit

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by Tim Mulligan

The hallmark of the first wave of streaming disruption was video on demand functionality which unleashed a TV show commissioning boom focused upon scripted drama whole season releases. The ad-free subscription-based model removed the need for intrusive ad breaks and sponsor considerations as well as the time and concept constraints imposed by linear prime-time scheduling. Subscription video on demand (SVOD) thus became the go-to creative environment for showrunners. A combination of debt-fuelled commissioning budgets, creative freedom in story-telling, and global audiences all transpired to create a renaissance in TV storytelling. Fast forward to 2022, and the first wave of US-centric SVOD creative disruption is now being supplanted by the current wave of international TV show content.

TV internationalisation 2.0 is here

The D2C big bang moment of 2019/2020, and the subsequent great lockdown of 2020/21, normalised SVOD for consumers across the world, resulting in mainstream consumers becoming streaming audiences. However, the key difference with the pre-2019 era was the lack of globally diverse content, and with this new era of globalisation, the US-centric cultural consensus has been flipped on its head and exposed audiences to truly international, non-US storytelling. This new wave of internationalisation has been characterised by the global phenomenon of Squid Game, Netflix’s Korean language original which broke out of its South Korean target audience and became a global hit, due to its adherence to the global hits 2.0 commissioning rules identified in MIDiA’s TV internationalisation 2.0 report published this week.

For the first time in human history, storytelling is evolving into a hybrid of international themes, trends, narratives, and perspectives. These create content that resonates for global niches to the extent that the content and the brand associated with it become part of the global zeitgeist.

Cultural perspectives may divide, yet stories ultimately unite 

2022 is an era of polarisation, exacerbated by filter bubbles and fuelled by the self-selecting algorithms of the leading social and media distribution platforms. Cultural dominance by one particular world view is now fragmenting. The result is that a diverse variety of perspectives are rising to the surface, and crucially, finding audiences in an era of waning consumer attention. Winning audience share now is about cutting through attention fatigue by delivering unique perspectives on universal themes. Squid Game worked because its story had universal appeal, yet it was told through a distinctly South Korean lens.

As the D2C big bang era begins its transition into the D2C retention era, retention of global audiences will increasingly become a strategic priority, as will the optimisation of content budgets. Commissioning local content with global appeal potentially delivers double the return on investment (ROI) of traditional mainstream US-centric content commissions. Distributing content that strongly resonates with niches brings fandom economic dynamics into the content ROI equation, creating brand IP that can hack into organic fandoms and drive awareness and engagement among consumers as unfamiliar with the brand. TV internationalisation 2.0 is ultimately about using the audience to reach the audience.

Welcome the new TV content norm of 2022 and beyond.

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