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The Numbers Game
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New record: South Korean action drama Squid Game is officially a phenomenon. It was already widely accepted that the show was on its way to becoming one of the biggest original streaming hits of all time, and on Tuesday Netflix confirmed it. The series drew 111 million viewers in its first month on the platform, per internal estimates, which makes it the biggest launch in the company’s history. That’s including all English-language content, with the show surpassing Bridgerton to hit the mark.
What does this mean? Squid Game is yet another example of how global platforms such as Netflix don’t rely on the English language for hit content. The likes of Money Heist, Dark and Lupin have all proven in the past that these types of shows can cross international borders, and it wouldn’t be surprising if we see another Squid Game-level hit in the near future, particularly considering that all of the big streamers are smashing their record budgets for local-language content on upcoming series. Apple TV+’s upcoming Korean-language show Dr Brain, for example, is understood to be one of the highest-budget shows ever produced in the country. The streamers are all well aware that the majority of their growth lies in far-flung territories. At a recent event in Germany, Netflix chief Reed Hastings commented that the international proliferation of local language content continued to be “the really special thing about Netflix”.
More Squid Game: Deadline’s Brandon Choe sat down virtually with Squid Game star Wi Ha-jun on Tuesday to chat about the show’s success. “I would say the craziest thing that happened to me is having an interview right now with one of the biggest media companies in the world,” the star told Brandon. Flattery will get you everywhere. Elsewhere, LeBron James told his teammate Anthony Davis that he didn’t like the show’s ending in a post-game press conference (spoilers ahead), while North Korea came out in opposition to the show, describing it as a “sad reality of a beastly South Korean society”.
France Makes Oscar Pick
Controversial choice: France entered the International Oscar race this week with Titane, Julia Ducournau’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner. The film is widely admired in industry circles, and will undoubtedly find fervid support among the core arthouse audience, but the selection raised some eyebrows in the French biz. Some think that Happening, Audrey Diwan’s Venice Golden Lion winner, would have a better shot to appeal to Academy voters, with the abortion drama seen as more accessible than Ducournau’s frantic and violent body horror. The influence of Cannes on the selection committee has long been noted, with festival director Thierry Fremaux having a seat. However, others believe Titane has a shot to surprise a few and get that valuable nomination. The film is hard to ignore, and it is also going to be released by Neon in the U.S., the company that previously released Oscar sensation Parasite. Also submitting this week was Austria (Great Freedom), along with the Czech Republic (Zatopek).
BBC Bullying Overhaul
New policy: On Thursday, Deadline revealed exclusively that the BBC has overhauled its guidelines for bullying and sexual harassment on set in light of “recent revelations”. In a memo to dozens of UK indies sent several weeks ago, chief content officer Charlotte Moore tasked producers on all new shows with confirming they have a suitable “respect at work policy”, naming at least one safeguarding contact and requiring all cast and crew to complete anti-bullying and harassment training before the cameras roll.
New streamers target growth: It was a rather depleted affair at this year’s Mipcom in Cannes as most major distributors eschewed the Croisette but there was still plenty going on, and streamers’ European ambitions dominated the conversation. ViacomCBS’ SVP Programming and Acquisitions Douglas Craig described Europe as the “next logical step” for Paramount+, which will launch in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Italy in 2022, while Nent Group’s Filippa Wallestam, who oversees Nordic SVoD Viaplay, talked up local content in soon-to-launch territories the UK and Netherlands. Meanwhile, Studiocanal exec Françoise Guyonnet said the production-distribution giant is to “increase footprint” in France and the UK in the near future.
Deal roundup: As ever, a host of blockbuster deals were struck at the Cannes market. The week started with Deadline exclusively revealing that Banijay Rights had taken global distribution rights to Lifetime / A&E’s Janet Jackson doc event series. Banijay Rights also struck a format deal for Lego Masters in Korea, eOne took on BBC2’s upcoming Joni Mitchell doc and the likes of Nutopia’s Extra Life and BBC1/Amazon’s Pursuit Of Love sold around the world.
Theatrical Future Debate
MIA round-up: The Rome Film Festival is taking place this week, and running alongside it is the MIA Market, an industry-focused film and TV event that has been growing in influence on the European circuit these past few years. A high-profile line-up of speakers included Joe Russo, one half of the Russo Brothers, the duo behind the big-grossing Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War and now co-chiefs of indie banner AGBO. Russo addressed the future of the big-screen biz, telling the audience that he “doesn’t see a resurgence of independent movies at theaters”. MIA also featured panels on the future of theatrical distribution and funding scripted projects.
Lack Of Support
‘Spencer’ finance challenges: Paul Webster, the prolific indie producer behind hits including Atonement, delivered a keynote speech at the Production Finance Market, held during the London Film Festival, in which he addressed funding challenges for his new movie Spencer. Go deeper.
ICYMI: Catch up with all the glitzy happenings from our Contenders London event, back in person this year, by visiting the dedicated website.
🌶️ Hot one of the week: Andreas had more details on Justin Chon’s under-the-radar music drama Jamojaya, starring rapper Rich Brian.
🌶️ Another one: Václav Marhoul has tapped two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon to star as controversial U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in a biopic.
🌶️ Another one: Anna Paquin and Ray Winstone are leading the cast of A Bit of Light, the sophomore feature from director Stephen Moyer, who is best known for his role in HBO series True Blood.
🚚 On the move: Industry vets Matt Brodlie and Jonathan Kier are launching their own Los Angeles-based banner, Upgrade Productions, which will focus on international content and has backing from Constantin.
🚚 On the move: BBC Studios has appointed chief finance officer Tom Fussell as CEO, more than one year after Tim Davie moved to become DG.
🚚 On the move: Range Media Partners is expanding with the launch of an international division, and has hired Oliver Riddle to serve as Head of International Content.
🏆 Awards circuit: BAFTA is again skipping its Los Angeles event The Britannia Awards this year.
👀 Teaser watch: Here’s a teaser for the last season of Money Heist.
Max Goldbart contributed to this week’s International Insider.
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