Göteborg 2021 - Göteborg Industry
Industry Report: Series
TV Drama Vision explores whether the transformation of storytelling can save TV from obsolescence
Johanna Koljonen and Walter Iuzzolino discussed current TV creativity, the role of streamers, how TV can survive into the future and how European content can travel
At the opening of the 2021 Göteborg Film Festival’s TV Drama Vision, Cia Edström welcomed guests to a digital event that took place “after a year unlike any other for everyone” and introduced Johanna Koljonen who hosted the first conversation on “European Vision: Transforming Storytelling Together”.
Walter Iuzzolino, CEO at Eagle Eye Drama, was the main guest and started by focusing on TV production in a pandemic. He stated that this was a slightly schizophrenic world where, when the streets are empty, the TV industry remains incredibly strong and creates new content. There is intense production activity and more consumption than ever before, which is why the industry appears extremely alive. The challenge for the future of TV drama won’t be about creativity, but about distribution and access to content, as everybody is going vertical — especially the big American SVODs which are raising the fences of their rights. The next 3 to 4 years will be tricky but in the end, content needs to circulate, to be packaged and distributed. Until then, everyone will protect their property.
Koljonen mentioned that the multiplication of streamers will lead to other formats of VOD, and that the libraries therefore cannot remain exclusive to one platform. Iuzzolino agreed on that, seeing as on a cultural level we are ready to share content, but he added that this has not yet been translated to a sustainable business model. A streamer’s power will not solely be based on its content, it will also lie on its curation and the branding of its content for consumers, through a pure process of marketing.
Because cinema has lost its main exhibition locations this year, the system of windows is shifting and the role of the theatrical release diminishing, with the industry now understanding that home screens are the main players. Iuzzolino believes that both systems will be improved by this evolution. TV creators will embrace the compact formats of storytelling of more self-contained, short, one-bite mini-series that replicate the aesthetics of cinema. Meanwhile, cinema will let go of its snobbery against TV and realise the latter’s role in connecting to and attracting a bigger audience to the theaters.
This realisation about the way TV Dramas have evolved in the past 20 years led Koljonen to ask whether the medium was becoming more conservative, and how it could become exciting again. Iuzzolino echoed her concerns, agreeing that the success of some formats led to repetition: as the people in charge seek to extend this “golden age” of TV, they stick by a certain format, which in turns leads to TV Dramas having reached a certain type of aesthetics and plastic perfection and their content becoming a bit hollow. By creating a solid relationship with a certain type of cultivated middle-age consumers equipped with credit cards, television has lost a chunk of younger people who already find, create and distribute their own content through different media. If this continues, then the generation gap will widen and tomorrow, TV dramas will not be attractive to the children of current TV consumers.
According to Iuzzolino, the problem lies in the fact that most of the people in charge live in an industry bubble and are not engaged in anything further than television. With the hope that businesses will find a way to survive, the “solution” would be to capture this activity that is happening elsewhere and lure it in with money and infrastructure, or the game will be lost. If the wealthy medium television cannot seize on this change in time, other ecosystems will be able to monetise themselves on their own and therefore will not be attracted to television, driving TV to obsolescence.
Regarding the content’s quality and format, Koljonen mentioned that predictable stories are not a match for binge-watching routine. Iuzzolino agreed, explaining that the old-fashioned, linear, weekly routine of consumption has been destroyed by binging, as the pattern in a TV show’s slow-drip release is revealed and is no longer part of the ritual. Moreover, viewers now want to be presented to new worlds, and not to see themselves on screen. The stimulation of new journeys to a world that is relevant to but different from everyday life, and the lessons to be gained from these journeys, are now much more attractive and useful to viewers.
Regarding differences between the outreach of American and European content, Iuzzolino stressed that enormous amounts of money are spent in Europe to create Europe-relevant content that can also travel incredibly well globally. The problem is not cultural but political, as governments should continue to fund the distinctive voices of national televisions, the same way they do to maintain museums or other arts. Moreover, this local content should be pulled to a “megastreamer” and be available globally, in a way that assigns revenues based on each country’s investment; this “megastreamer” could be an even bigger platform than Netflix, entirely European, distinctive, and featuring a multiplicity of voices.
Responding to Koljonen’s final question about how to transform storytelling, Iuzzolino repeated that television must open its doors to much younger people who could join the system, nurture young talents, and make less polished dramas with young voices front and centre.
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