Beef and The Bear, the shows that joined Succession in a three-way domination of Monday night’s Emmy Awards, have a surprising amount of shared DNA.
“I think there’s a real yearning for authenticity right now,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, EVP and Head of Programming Genres for A&E, Lifetime and LMN. Beef and The Bear “have a vibe that feels like you’re a fly on the wall.”
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Bryant’s comments came during a panel discussion Tuesday at the reborn NATPE Global conference in Miami, which has returned under new ownership after two dark years due to Covid and financial woes. The exec was joined onstage by Courtney Thomasma, EVP, Streaming, at AMC Networks; Jens Richter, CEO of Commercial and International for Fremantle; Paolo Koelle, Head of Prime Video Latin America; and Scott Herbst, Head of Scripted Development and EVP at Lionsgate Television.
The conversation touched on a range of topics in programming, distribution and strategy, as well as streaming’s coexistence with linear TV and the impact of 2023’s dual strikes.
Emerging from the challenges of the strikes, budgets are being watched more closely than ever, the panel agreed. Herbst said The Bear was not only inviting to viewers; it was appetizing to its corporate backers because it was done “for a price.”
Escapist fare, the panelists agreed, will continue to be in demand given the economic uncertainty, anxiety about multiple wars upending much of the world, and the insidious march of AI on the minds of viewers. Beef may not be a light show, exactly, and The Bear is awfully sober for a comedy, but both offer a lot of stylistic panache and heightened aesthetics.
Thomasma said “a broader reset” is under way, especially of the streaming wars. “How much volume do you need?” she wondered. “Quality is always going to win. I imagine we’ll see a shift to fewer/bigger/better. … It’s forced a lot of great conversations, both internally and industrywide, as to what we’re doing.”
Subscription streaming’s first boom period, which lasted roughly from 2019 to 2021, was “based on the false premise of exclusivity,” Thomasma added. It also was “about convenience.” Now that content owners are more readily licensing titles out to multiple players and no longer hell-bent on clawing back exclusive rights, a new model and orientation toward relevance can assert itself.
Thomasma said not only is “the great rebundling” starting, as stand-alone streamers find safety and less churn in numbers, but she predicts there will be “a lot of direct collaboration” between rivals. A case in point from her own company, she said, was a pop-up initiative AMC Networks created last fall with Warner Bros. Discovery, with a handful of AMC Networks shows gaining prominent placement for 60 days on Max. She said she has taken to calling those kinds of initiatives “our strange bedfellows era of 2024.”
AMC Networks execs were “blown away by the results,” which offered “proof of concept,” Thomasma said, with shows landing in Max’s top 10 and registering double-digit viewership increases.
Richter said similar collaborations are common in the international arena. This urgent need we had two, three years ago that one streamer needs to control the world, that’s over,” he said.
Koelle put in a plug for Prime Video Channels, which presents programming to viewers while remaining “more and more agnostic to the source” of that programming.
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