Intl. TV Newswire: Pay TV Uncertainty, Animation Sells, ‘Money Heist’ Impresses

John Hopewell and Jamie Lang

Click here to read the full article.

In this week’s International TV Newswire pay TV struggles despite record audiences, animated content stays hot as families scramble to keep kids entertained, “Casa de Papel” Season 4 races out of the gates, ZDF shops two new historical documentaries, Latin America sees platform launches and announcements, Globo boasts record audiences and AMC, NOS team on a new Portuguese cooking program.

For Pay TVs, This Time Round Could Be Different – Report

More from Variety

Pay TV operators usually surf economic crisis better than most, Sky maintaining growth momentum, though at a slower pace, in the 2008-09 financial crisis, for instance. Sky Italia suffered more Italy’s subprime (2008-09) then Euro (2011-13) crisis, revenue growth dropping to 2% in 2009, still a resilient performance by most consumer industry accounts.

But this time round, with COVID-19 lockdown, pay TVs’ resilience will be far more sorely tested, says an Enders Analysis study, published on April 8.

The difference cuts two major ways, Enders argues; big sporting broadcasts have been suspended and competition from content rich SVOD players. Direct losses to some pay TV operator from suspended live sports broadcasts may be capped: In France, Canal Plus and BeIN Sports will not pay their April Ligue 1 installment, and DAZN will suspend payments for events not broadcast, the study points out. But lost soccer deprives pay TV platforms of the possibility of leveraging impulse buying as the season heats up and hits price-to-value perceptions.

Above all, last time round during the financial crisis, alternatives to Sky in the U.K. and Italy, Premiere in Germany and Canal Plus in France and Spain were weak. “Today SVOD offers an array of new and library material competitive with the incumbents’, at a fraction of the price,” Enders Analysis underscores.

The crunch will come when, with lockdown progressively relaxing, soccer matches are resumed and pay TVs get back their most appealing differentiator, the report predicts, ending on a cautionary note: “But even then, the platforms will remain sensitive to the broader recessionary economic trends, pressuring consumers to look at the now numerous alternatives.”

Animation Attractive as Ever with Kids Stuck Inside

As schools around the globe remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and parents slowly lose the will to enforce screen-time quotas, networks and platforms are clamoring for kids’ content. Already one of the key factors in reducing churn among subscribers, now more than ever services which can keep kids occupied are favored among families, making animated content especially appealing.

Animation is also producible from home, meaning that work, while slowed, has not been postponed completely. For example, “Maya and the Three” creator-showrunner Jorge Gutierrez was effusive in his praise of Netflix for its willingness to help him work from home.

This week’s animation deals include French distributor ZED acquiring its first-ever animated series, “Lina’s World,” originally commissioned for public broadcaster France Télévisions. The 2D series is co-produced by Les Batelières Productions, Foliascope Studios and Cinemon Entertainment and aims to combat religious stereotyping using humor to examine the origins of the Abrahamic religions.

ViacomCBS international Studios and Netflix teamed on “Sharkdog,” produced by VIS in partnership with One Animation in Singapore. Turning on 10-year-old Max and his BFF Sharkdog, the series came from Nickelodeon’s Global Animated Shorts Program and is part of last year’s Netflix-Nickelodeon deal which already saw reboots of “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “Invader Zim” hit the streaming platform.

Nickelodeon Lat Am also closed a deal on “Care Bears: Unlock the Magic” from U.S. producer-distributor Cloudco Entertainment. Spiral International was sales agent on the deal which includes the 2D animated series’ 48 short episodes and two half-hour specials.

‘Money Heist’ – ‘La Casa de Papel’ Season 4 Soars to No. 1 on SVOD Worldwide

Bowing April 3, “Money Heist”/“La Casa de Papel” Season 4 shot to No. 1 on not only Netflix but global in-demand TV charts. And it did so by what looks like a huge margin. From April 3-5, “La Casa de Papel” was 31.75 times up on average series globally, and demand was 36.6% up on Season 3 debut over July 19-21, 2019.

Essentially a second part of Season 3, the newest “La Casa de Papel” made those numbers without Season 3’s change of heist target, sudden global breath, notable budget hike and broader political agenda. And that may leave hostages to fortune. Seasons 2 and 3 scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, Season 4 to date rates a good but not stellar 71%, though with only one top critic reporting. “Ennui is setting in,” writes that top critic Ed Cummings in U.K. newspaper The Independent. Even so, “La Casa de Papel” ranked No. 1 on TV Time’s charts of most-binged global shows, “Money Heist” taking 16.75% of total binges, eight times that of No. 2, “Elite,” also from Spain. Binges are rated by TV Time as four or more episodes seen over 24 hours or less. “La Casa de Papel’s” ennui may still be more exciting than what many more shows have to offer.

ZDF Brings Two Documentaries to Market

Germany’s ZDF Enterprises brought two new documentaries to market this week. “Magellan—Circumnavigating the World” is a 50-minute special from Terra X to mark the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the globe by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan and his oft-forgotten Basque partner Sebastian Elcano, who captained the final leg of the journey after Magellan’s death in the Spice Islands. “Countdown to Surrender – The Last 100 Days,” co-produced by ZDFE and Spiegel TV, Der Spiegel’s TV production arm, shines a light on the final 100 days of WWII in Europe from Feb 1945, through Hitler’s suicide in April, up to the eventual surrender by German forces in May.

Latin America’s Newest Platforms

Self-isolating Latin Americans in Mexico, Colombia and Chile will have additional entertainment options going forward, as two platforms and a tracking app have launched in the territories. Chinese service Huawei Video has bowed in all three countries with a catalog of 300-plus hours of content. Chile’s most-watched broadcaster Mega announced a May launch for its ad-free OTT platform Mega Go, which will host original content, live broadcasts and the network’s catalog of popular Turkish dramas. With so many platforms now to choose from, analysis paralysis could be a threat to many who may turn to JustWatch, launched on Wednesday in Colombia after successful campaigns in Mexico, Argentina and Chile, which tracks and displays what content is available on which service.

Globo’s ‘Looks & Essence’ Punches 48 Million Audience Average

Most months of any normal year, Brazilian TV giant has primetime audience numbers U.S. networks would die for. But, in COVID-19 lockdown, those number are climbing for more, even for telenovela reissues. Originally broadcast In Brazil in 2011, “Looks & Essence” was re-released March 23 on Globo primetime, punching an average daily audience through April 1 of almost 49 million for a market share of 48%. Audience reach was 24% up on average for the timeslot. The telenovela revolves around people’s character and looks, asking which is more important, pitching a humble repair woman (Lilia Cabral, “The Favorite”) against a scheming rich antagonist, (Christiane Torloni, “Women in Love”).

AMC, NOS Launch “Casa e Cozinha,” First Portuguese-Language Lifestyle Channel

Lockdown hasn’t halted new service announcements in Europe either. In one move in Portugal, AMC Networks International Southern Europe and NOS, Portugal’s top pay TV operator, bowed this week “Casa e Cozinha” (Home & Kitchen), AMC’s first lifestyle channel in Portuguese. The channel will be managed by Dreamia, an Amcnise/NOS joint venture. It will offer a mix of Portuguese original programming, such as “Our Kitchen,” hosted by chef Maria José Sousa, owner of the prestigious A Taberna do Adro restaurant, as well as international hits: “My Dream Home,” hosted by the Scott Brothers, or “Basic to Brilliance Kids,” with Australian food stylist Donna Hay, among other shows.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.