Disney’s ABC Studios International Eyes Production Around the Globe

John Hopewell

CANNES, France — Disney’s ABC Studios International looks set to drive significantly more into local production outside the U.S. as it seeks to leverage the distribution muscle of Disney Media Networks, plus ABC’s production expertise, to capitalize on new production opportunities around the world.

Producing abroad, ABC Intl. Studios has multiple options, said Keli Lee, managing director, international content and talent,  ABC Studios International. These run the gamut of “international co-productions; local co-production; re-versioning Disney’s huge library of IPs; acquisition and production of original formats,” Lee said at a Disney Media Distribution presentation at Mipcom on Monday.

“Hopefully in the next months or so we will have some things to announce,” Lee said, adding that the projects would represent all four production categories she mentioned. ABC’s casting guru for a decade, Lee relocated from the U.S. to London earlier the year to her newly created post, heading up ABC International Studios.

Disney has produced local content in Latin America for 16 years, including iterations of “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Revenge.” It has partnered on production in Turkey and Nigeria. Regarding international co-production, Lee cited TV series “Guerrilla,” from writer-creator John Ridley, who has a deal at ABC Studios. The show stars Freida Pinto and Babou Ceesay, is produced by ABC Studios, Sky Atlantic and 50 Fathoms, and will air in the U.S. on Showtime.

ABC Studios Intl.’s production drive is likely to signal a significant hike overseas in production investment.

“We are committed to investing and developing international co-productions and original local productions,” Lee said.

She added: “ABC Studios Intl.’s priority is talent and partnerships. We are looking for the right partners in each territory,” such as France, Germany and Spain, where ABC could act as a producer, financier or distributor.

ABC Studios can bring huge expertise to the table and the production financing to produce at a scale which allows content results to stand out from the crowd.

Also, U.S. and international audiences are not evolving in sync, as Mark Endemaño, general manager, Disney Media Distribution, Europe, Middle East and Africa, pointed out.

While network production volumes of procedurals have dropped off in the U.S., there is still a large demand for such shows abroad, he said. “When you look at the content imported from the U.S. that works the best, it can be procedurals,” he said, citing France as an example. “There is a market opportunity for production.”

“The world is not one country. We have made a commitment to becoming truly local,” said Ben Pyne, president, Disney Media Networks.

Fernando Barbosa, SVP, Disney distribution and production, Latin America, talked briefly about the Disney Media Distribution-backed Juan Gabriel bio-series, “Hasta que te conoci,” which broke ratings records on TNT Latin America and Mexico’s TV Azteca and tripled Univision ratings on Telemundo. “With our first original, we hit the jackpot. This is just the first of other originals which we have coming,” Barbosa said at the Disney presentation.

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