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Why Series Mania Has Grown So Big, This Year’s Buzz Titles and Other Takes on the Top European TV Festival

LILLE, France  –Bowing in 2010 as a boutique event at Paris’ Forum des Images – though launched with an absolute conviction in the cultural import of premium TV series, Series Mania will kick off its 15th edition on March 15 in Lille, Eastern France, reconfirming it status as the biggest dedicated TV festival in Europe.

It does so with a bang, with the European premiere of one of the biggest series of the year, Netflix’s “3 Body Problem,” which “cements ‘Game of Thrones’ creators as masters of adapting the
unadaptable,” Variety announced.

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Delegate accreditation at Series Mania’s Forum, its three-day industry event running March 19-21, is on track to pass 4,000 participants, an all time record, and a huge step-up, say, from 2016, when attendance was limited to around 300 executives. That same edition sneak-peeked Netflix’s first French original, “Marseilles.”  Since 2010, Series Mania has grown in synch with the world’s fast-ramping premium cable TV, and then U.S. feeding frenzy for high-end drama, powerful new OTT entrants, and a content-creation reaction among incumbent TV operators and new SVOD players around the world.

So how does that leave Series Media is post-Peak TV?

The brief answer is that the event’s still growing. 10 takes on that, other trends and highlights at the 15th Series Mania, which ends March 22.

The Bigger Picture

There’s a bigger picture. Ampere Analysis forecast a few days back that in 2024 51% of Netflix’s $15.4 billion film and TV budget will be spent on titles made outside the U.S. Global content spent, excluding sports, will soar 40% over 2022-28, while U.S. spend will plunge 20%. Reasons? One is that much of international, led by Central and South America (+19%) is less sub-saturated, Variety’s VIP+ suggests.

Post Peak TV Festival Bump  

This sea change has large consequences for TV events. “The internationalization of content is continuing apace and I can’t see that lessening or reversing,” Ampere Analysis’ Guy Bisson tells Variety. “The re-invigoration of the licensing market also points to expanded opportunity for international content and so festivals fulfil a two-pronged opportunity to pick up projects in the development stage as well as locating high quality finished programming that has shown pedigree in one or more international markets,” he adds.

Other Reasons for International TV Growth

“In Europe, all the streamers have obligations, especially in France, to produce European or French content,” says Series Mania founder and general director Laurence Herzsberg. “Also, streamers realize it’s cheaper to produce outside the U.S. Diversifying production, they can still make shows which attract viewers who are ever more interested in the usual American and U.K. series,” she adds. Led by the highly curated Series Mania, festivals act as quality filters, through selection and prizes, and new talent platforms.

Co-Production Evolves

For years, co-production has been at the industry heart of Series Mania. Spiralling budgets make co-production all the more necessary in the last few years. But models have evolved. “We have ever more buyers and sales agents coming to Series Mania to be at the beginning of a show,” co-financing its IP, says Herszberg. So, again spiking attendance, a famed co-pro meet has developed ever more as licensing market, the presence of international distributors attracting ever more companies which are still facing huge competition to snag sales.

Series Mania’s Goes Global 

Two Japanese co-productions –  “A True Novel,” directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and from Shochiku and Upgrade Productions, and manga-inspired “Issak,” written by Itaru Mizuno (“Double Booking”) and “4 Blocks” Richard Kropf and produced by ZDF Studios and Nippon TV – look like potential highlights at this year’s Co-Pro Pitching Sessions as it welcomes its first Japanese titles. Higher-end, more ambitious drama series production “is ever and ever more global,” Francesco Capurro, director of the Series Mania Forum, has told Variety, citing strong delegations this year from Brazil, South Africa, Korea and Taiwan. “Series Mania is about this global market which every body wants to be in,” adds Herszberg.

Buzz Titles

There’s good word on Taiwan’s “Three Tears in Borneo,” set in a Japanese WWII prisoner of war camp in Borneo, and also on main International Competition title “In the Shadows,” adapting a presidential primary political thriller from former French PM Edouard Philippe. German actor Oliver Masucci reportedly delivers a commanding performance in Fremantle’s “Herrhausen, the Banker and the Bomb,” as the visionary German banker, produced by Sperl Film, commissioned by ARD; tickets for Federation Studios’ “Rematch,” about the second Gary Kasparov – Deep Blue face off, sold out within an hour.

What is Love?

“Dates in Real Life,” produced by Norway’s Maipo Film for NRK like “State of Happiness,” turns on Gen Z Ida who is dumped by her virtual world lover and sets out to find a physical partner. Another buzz title, “So Long, Marianne,” asks, among many things, what women fall in love with about men. Other festival titles or Seriesmakers projects turn on family – Annette Bening starrer “Apples Never Fall”; the creators of House of Gods” call it “‘Succession’ in a mosque” –  or friendship (“TruLove”) or identity “George Blake.” Creators, and it may our may not be a relationship to the pandemic, are examining the bedrock relationships of life. 

Driving an Industry Conversation

Series Mania has always stood out as a TV festival with a sensibility about industry trends. Last year, it inaugurated a series of panels on marketing and the first edition of Seriesmakers, partnering with Beta Film, to aid illustrious cineastes make the transition from cinema to drama series creation. Watch out this year for not only “George Blake” from Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald and “Freedom Academy” from “Four Daughters’” Kaouther Ben Hania. This year, the Lille Dialogues turn on another conversation driver, AI, while the Forum will incorporate an IP day on Thursday, including Shoot the Book! B2B meetings and a panel. “IP is a very big business trend,” says Herszberg. “People want to be reassured by preexisting IP.”  

The Verdict So Far 

Series Mania’s painstakingly curation shows in critics’ reactions to many of its titles which have been released. Of main International Competition titles, Variety described “Apples Never Fall” as a “propulsive beach read you can binge,” and Tubi’s “Boarders” as “a hilarious and moving view of Black students navigating white spaces.” “TruLove” has been hailed as “twisty, magnificent and deeply moving,”  “After the Party,”starring Robyn Malcolm, as “New Zealand’s best TV drama in years,” and “La Mesías,” the only European series selected for Sundance, has been acclaimed in its native Spain as a “masterpiece.”

The Red Carpet and Beyond 

Expected to walk Series Mania’s red carpet are Patricia Arquette and “Gossip Girl’s” Kelly Rutherford, plus Peter Mullan, who stars in New Zealand drama “After the Party.” At the Forum, Sony Picture Television’s Wayne Garvie, TF1’s Rodolphe Belmer and Movistar Plus+’s Domingo Corral will give masterclasses. J.B. Perrette, CEO and president, global streaming and games at Warner Bros. Discovery, will deliver the closing keynote. Key debating points may well take in cost contention, the move towards “lighter” feeling programming, and the surge of co-production via a diversity of business models. 

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