Although COVID-19 has damaged the entertainment industry across the board, it’s clear that streamers are making a swifter, healthier recovery than their linear counterparts.
According to Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson, the streamers’ scripted commissioning activity in 2020 was quicker to return to 2019 levels. However, perhaps more significantly, the streamers have strongly increased their development deals of late (up 38% in the latter part of 2020 versus 2019), while linear channels continue to lag far behind their previous figures (down 42% year-to-year in the same time frame).
“Potentially it means a widening of the gap between linear players and streamers in terms of where the quality drama is getting made and starting to appear. Probably not immediately as development deals pan out, but we’re looking into the latter part of next year where this gap may start to emerge,” Bisson said.
Although part of that gap can be explained by the influx of streaming players such as Disney Plus and HBO Max, Bisson predicted that the streamers will continue to lead on the scripted front.
Another trend that he identified is the growth of European TV markets, which are now almost matching the United States for total commissions.
There are no prizes for guessing which players are driving this trend.
“Where we’re seeing very strong increases, that is largely driven by either global or larger regional streamers,” Bisson revealed. “The streamers are becoming increasingly important, not just in terms of driving the overall commissioning trend, but in driving commissioning of European origin content as well.”
As for content-specific trends, Bisson said that the major streamers are beginning to show stark differences between each other.
The analyst identified Netflix’s focus as international content (“our data shows that 62% of their new drama commissions are now being made outside the United States”), HBO Max’s priority as social issues (“particularly race and gender”), Amazon’s focus as securing a broader audience, and Disney’s as putting a good deal of their eggs in the franchise basket.
Although Bisson added that franchise potential might become a little less important for Disney with the launch of Star.
“I think we’ll begin to see a change with this as they begin that original production strategy for the Star platform, which of course we know is going to focus more on a slightly more adult audience,” he said.
Bisson also noted marked shifts in our general content preferences throughout the pandemic.
In the first few months following the March lockdowns, audiences veered towards crime and documentary content, with “Tiger King” leading the way. That gave way to more romance content as viewers were unable to spend time with the people they love.
Comedy started taking center stage as the second wave of lockdowns kicked in around fall. Finally, dramas with romantic and escapist tropes (Bisson highlighted “The Crown” and “Lupin” in particular) took over in late 2020 and early 2021.