Series Mania Forum 2024: AI, IP & Co-Productions - A Recap of Europe's Premier TV Series Event

Series Mania Forum 2024: AI, IP & Co-Productions - A Recap of Europe's Premier TV Series Event

A detailed wrap from our correspondent in Lille Lühr-Martin Lemkau

Another edition of Series Mania Forum has drawn to a close, reaffirming its status as the foremost TV series event in Europe. Hosted in the city of Lille, France, the 2024 Forum witnessed the convergence of over 4,000 participants from 60 countries. With an expanded exhibition space within Lille Grand Palais, Series Mania Forum showcased the latest trends, developments, and strategies shaping the television landscape.

Throughout the event, co-productions, intellectual property (IP), and artificial intelligence (AI) emerged as hot topics. The major streamers utilized the forum as a platform to unveil news. Disney+ announced the production of a 70-part Spanish “premium soap opera”, while WBD also revealing the European launch date for MAX and the second season of "House of the Dragon."

The established Co-Pro Pitching Sessions provided a platform for 15 series seeking international funding, with Slovakia's political drama Our People (6 x52’) emerging as the – according to several participants, obvious - winner of the Series Mania Forum Best Project Award, receiving a EUR 50,000 prize to aid its development.  Tomas Hruby, Miro Sifra and Tereza Nvotova received the check and an award in Lille for the project, which focuses on the story on murder of the journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kušnírová in 2018, which overthrows the balance of power in Slovakia.

Fact-based Drama was also one of the key topics of Glance’s “Local hits with international potential” presented by Beatrice Rossmanith, pointing out the massive success of Mr Bates vs. The Post Office on ITV in January, fueling public discussions as the scandal became a major news story. Also highlighting Canal+ drama series “Of Money and Blood” (OT: D'argent et de sang) about the billion-euro carbon tax fraud, as well as Spanish “The Law of the Sea” (OT: La ley del mar) about a fishing boat crew rescuing 51 Eritrean immigrants stranded ten miles from Malta.
Furthermore, main trends identified by Rossmanith were “fantasy genre beyond western territories” as well as cinema IP for TV, highlighting an adaptation of “City of God” for MAX in Brazil and the upcoming series “Paris has Fallen” for Canal+.

C21 Media’s Michael Pickard highlighted during his DQ Drama Trends Report fashion series as one of the key trends in 2024, including “The New Look” from Apple TV, “Balenciaga” and “Becoming Karl Lagerfeld” from Disney+ Spain respectively France. Matching this, Gaumont Italy announced the following day to produce an audiovisual project about the Gucci family.

Also new to the Forum this year was the IP Market focusing on literary adaptations, podcasts, and short formats. For the first time, a round table at the Forum on current trends and new voices in literary adaptation was hosted.

IP was a big topic at many panels, as the benefits are obvious.

Sony’s President International Production, Wayne Garvie, pointed out that IP could be much more than books and film library, referring to songs and news, in what Sony is dealing with via sister company Sony Music and a collaboration with The Guardian. As well IP could be found “in unusual places” with “Barbie” as an example.
The showcase by Larry Tanz, Netflix's Head of content EMEA, was held in front of a full house - the queue of spectators stretched right across the exhibition hall.
Tanz highlighted several successes of the likes that “Dear Child” was the biggest hit from Germany so far, entering the top 10 in 92 countries worldwide. He also pointed on the growing non-fiction segment with “Love is Blind” adaptations reaching from Sweden to the Arabic region.
As well he shared that in March 40 shows are in production and the team is working with 400 producers. Tanz said that 25% of IP of European content is owned by Netflix and “acquisitions plays a role, consumers don’t care if it’s an original production or acquisition”. Tanz explained that Netflix no longer wants all rights only and is much more flexible in its collaboration with producers.
He also showed first scenes and trailers from various productions, including the first images from Polish series "Heweliusz", about the sinking of a ferry in 1993. As well Tanz unveiled production starts in June for a French series led by star actress Isabelle Adjani, as well as a new project from the Netherland called “Amsterdam Empire”, starring movie stary Famke Janssen, about glamour and crime of Amsterdam in the 1980 and 1990.

Oscar winner Jeremy Irons and award-winning director Bille August brought some glamour and good humor to the northern French city at the Mediawan showcase for the promising series adaptation of “The Count of Monte Cristo”. Irons stated that the “tone of voice” is more important than the languages spoken on set, asked about which language was spoken at the multi-national co-production.

Liam Keelan, SVP Original Content, Europe and Africa at The Walt Disney Company stressed in the Disney+ EMEA Showcase, that the steamer is “not in the volume game” and projects need to be easy to pitch, have “commercial chic” and come “with lots of ambition”. Beside some first look scenes and trailers, the announcement of a Spanish 70-part “premium soap opera”, shot on location and with a crew from the movie industry, was probably the most exciting news. "Return to Las Sabinas" will be released daily, from Mondays to Fridays.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s CEO & President, Global Streaming & Games, JB Perrette emphasized the ambition for MAX to be among the top three streamers in terms of subscriber scale, viewership share, and profitability. His keynote also touched upon the importance of distribution partnerships and the role of quality content in driving viewer engagement. Perrette began by acknowledging that despite the exponential growth of streaming, it's still the early days for Warner Bros. Discovery in this arena. He pointed out a statistic: while 65% of usage on connected television (CTV) in the US is not attributed to streaming services, it highlights a significant opportunity for expansion and penetration into the market.

A key highlight of Perrette's address was the announcement of the launch date for MAX in Europe, scheduled for May 21st, marking the platform's expansion into all HBO MAX markets. Following this date, MAX will also launch in France and Belgium ahead of the Olympic Games 2024 in Paris as well as the launch of season 2 of House of the Dragon, for which two trailers were shown as a world premiere. MAX will roll out in new markets in 2025, potentially including territories where WBD has an HBO output deal in place with Sky, such as the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany. Moreover, Perrette teased audience with a glimpse of upcoming MAX Originals, including IP based spin-offs of "Dune," "It," and "Harry Potter," as well as "The Penguin" from the Batman universe.

In addition to the packed keynotes from the US streamers, there were several exciting discussions and parallel panels with interesting background information, such as the first Spanish-Serbian co-production Scar. Asacha Media Group Co-CEO Marina Williams shared that while researching, where the original book was successful, she realized that most of the fans outside of Spain lived in Serbia, so she contacted a Serbian producer she knew, which led to the unusual co-production.

In the several discussions about the benefits and challenges of co-productions, and the importance of IP, ZDF’s SVP International Fiction, Simone Emmelius, highlighted ZDF’s vast experience in co-production, the European Alliance and New8, as well as several projects including the success of Ukrainian co-production In Her Car as “it’s a topic which resonates with all of us”, which in her view is more important than familiarity. She concluded her statement at the “50 Shades of Co-Production” panel: “For me, Europe is the future, and that means political wise, social wise, but also production wise.”

Series Mania Forum 2024 offered a wealth of knowledge, discussions, and announcements, reaffirming its significance as a pivotal event in the television industry calendar.