The first day of KMW: streaming platforms, artificial intelligence and the global success of Ukrainian TV shows

17 September 2019, 00:47

The first day of KYIV MEDIA WEEK began with a success story, namely cooperation between British TV channel and American streaming service. Within the framework of the section “ITV and Netflix crime drama MARCELLA: from a blank page to the screen” supported by TV Channel Ukraine, Nicola Larder, executive producer of the series, told about the creation of the popular noir detective drama. She shared the way she works on scripts together with her colleague – Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, who has also created another noir series hit THE BRIDGE (BRON). He writes the full script of the episode after discussing the idea and all bits of the story with Nicola. Moreover, he writes in Swedish, the language Larder does not know, therefore she attracts a translator from Scandinavia and requires the most accurate translation to save Rosenfeldt`s original writing style – the “Scandinavian noir.”

But sometimes the working process requires painful compromise. According to Larder, Rosenfeldt planned to make the second season more “dark” than it turned out to be. In particular, he planned to make victims of children and show the process of murder. But Larder considered it as too cruel. “Children and older people should not die,” otherwise the audience of the project can cause audience reduction. By the way, the second season has slightly dropped the ratings and Larder believes that the reason is this growing “darkness” comparing to the first season.

“The audience is fed up with stereotyped cinema” - this is the so-called motto of the “Ukrainian Broadcasters Wishlist” section supported by Media Business Reports. With no exception, all the participants of the discussion agreed: even though the grids of the largest media groups stay pretty much the same, the changes in the market have already occurred. They might not be visible yet, but the changes are about to happen.

According to a TNS study, in 2018, the percentage of Internet use in spare time or the first time exceeded the rate of TV watching - 72% against 71% of respondents. According Yulia Gatitulina, Head of Programming Department, TV Channel Ukraine, viewers are simply tired of stereotyped TV and are looking for something new like “more drama in drama”. Also, representatives of the commercial and older (55+) audience tend to “spy” on young people: they are interested in projects for adolescents and trends represented there. Dmytro Troitskyi, Director of Broadcasting Division StarLightMedia, believes that reality shows (including talent shows) no longer work as they did five years ago. He thinks the future belongs to series. Therefore, the StarLightMedia channels ("New Channel", ICTV, STB), and other media groups channels are going to increase the volume of their in-house series production. They do not intend to buy more foreign content then the previous year.

Meanwhile, within the framework of “The Wit’s global viewing trends” CEO of international research and analytical company The Wit (Switzerland) – Virginia Mouseler told about the future of reality: today, reality-TV is gaining popularity on VoD platforms, becoming a guilty pleasure for VOD services. A good example is LOVE ISLAND show, as well as its local adaptations. This American show and was rebooted thanks to CBS streaming platform, and TEMPTATION ISLAND by Dutch VIPS NL channel was exclusively aired on SVOD Videoland. Virginia's visit took place with the support of the EU Delegaion to Ukraine.

Besides, the popular programs of the 2000s got a new life: the millennials perceive old hits as fresh content. The hot topics for nonfiction shows are related to abuse, sexual relations, and porn. At the same time, interest for horrifying images of crimes was replaced by interest in programs focused on social issues and its solutions.

Technologies have become an integral part of our daily life which goes beyond content creation, and allows to predict the success or failure of the content with the audience. Former NASA scientist and Co-founder of Cinelytic, Dev Sen told KMW audience about the wonders of artificial intelligence and machine learning implementation that have become reality today.  However, we all should not be afraid of technologies: AI and machines is not going to replace human creativity. Machines are designed to perform technical tasks, thus sparing the humans the precious time for creativity.

One more cutting-edge technology, which was highlighted during KYIV MEDIA WEEK is blockchain. According to Badel Media, founder of Badel Media and a consultant on digital media and blockchain, blockchain technology not only makes it possible to decentralize and simplify many processes related to the content transfer and production but also offers more interactivity for viewers.

One of the illustrative projects in this area is ATARI: FISTFUL OF QUARTERS – a biographical full-length feature film about Nolan Bushnell, former a pinball machine repairman who has become CEO of legendary company Atari – one of the gaming industry pioneers in the 70s.

Film producers released so-called Bushnell tokens, which enabled their owners to receive the box office a share as well as to have additional bonuses, such as a right to give a voice for the final trailer’s or minor cast choice. 

Within the framework of the first day of KYIV MEDIA WEEK the organizers traditionally introduced fresh TV formats from around the world. To make the long story short – the whole screening can be described with one phrase: "adulthood for children, mothers are 21 years old again, and the restaurant business is made to help people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease."

The Channel 4 restaurant show –THE RESTAURANT THAT MAKES MISTAKES, (the plot unfolds around older people with Alzheimer's disease employed at the restaurant) was also mentioned at a special presentation of new and popular content from South Korea organized by KOCCA. Do not be surprised: slow entertainment formats are relevant again for the Korean TV market. Following South Korea, similar trends have spread to the European market - in particular, to Great Britain.

Representatives of four local companies South Korea – KBS Media, KSEEK, Pictionary Art Factory, and MADMANPOST– joined KMW to share information about new and popular TV content. During the screening, they presented Korean talk shows, animated series, non-scripted and scripted formats, and demonstrated the capabilities of their specialists in the field of visual effects. The event was backed by the Korean government agency KOCCA.

Traditional KMW opening press conference, this time was entitled – "Time for Changes." For the first time as a minister, Vladimir Borodyansky shared his vision on the new humanitarian ministry functions, as well as on the future of audiovisual content state funding.

In addition, Ukrainian Cultural Foundation head – Yulia Fediv introduced the work results of her department over the past year and shared her plans for the future; Yaroslav Lodygin described his main tasks as general producer of Public Broadcasting; Katerina Fedorova shared achievements of the Clear Sky anti-piracy initiative, as well as her priorities and goals for the nearest future; and TIK Executive Director Igor Koval announced the upcoming conference “Television as a Business”.

By the way, “the television as a business” became an unofficial highlight of the panel discussion “New horizons of Ukrainian TV series”, where the participants discussed all areas of work – from creating multi-series franchises of sitcoms to international co-production. 

Over the past few years, the number of TV series produced in Ukraine has increase almost 4 times: only the last year local broadcasters and productions created 117 shows. Three show–cases were presented during the discussion: 60-120-episodes sitcoms produced by the UFO TV channel, the Latvian-Ukrainian co-production MARKUS, commissioned by TV Channel Ukraineand the PRINCIPLES OF PLEASURE series created in co-production between Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Despite the noticeable growth of Ukrainian co-productions, Vladislav Ryashyn, General Producer, Star Media noted that new rebate law adopted in the first reading hinders the further development of co-production. He focused on two moments: VAT for the Ukrainian contractor, which reduces rebate percentage from 25 to 5, as well as the exclusion of the costs of working with sole proprietors.

The third year in a row KYIV MEDIA WEEK keeps an eye on the Chinese content at the Focus On China section. This time, new formats which represent Chinese TV trends were introduced. 

The presentation of four projects – two documentaries and two feature ones – was followed by a discussion with Virginia Mouseler CEO of international research company The Wit, Switzerland.

According to her, the Internet has a great impact on modern TV market in China, so each year the formats should become more interesting, exciting and unique. 

Another event of the first day of KMW 2019, is the case study of HIDE AND SEEK – noir crime drama produced by FILM.UA, which has become one of the ten finalists of MIP Drama Buyers Summit 2019. Moreover, HIDE AND SEEK has become the first Ukrainian series presented at this prestigious competition. HIDE AND SEEK is a conceptual project that combines detective and drama genres, and raises important issues relevant to any society, in particular – kidnapping.

At the early production stage, project drew the attention of the international distributor ZDF Enterprises, which acquired the rights to distribute the 8-episode crime drama in Russia and the CIS. By the way, this distributor is famous for introducing another international noir hit –series THE BRIDGE. HIDE AND SEEK case study was presented by the creative producer Olesya Lukyanenko (creative producer of FILM.UA Group), co-producer Kateryna Vyshnevska (head of development and co-production FILM.UA), Mirela Nastase (head of ZDFE.Drama), Anastasia Shteinhaus (managing director of ICTV, Ukrainian series broadcaster). They told about the creative process, international and Ukrainian promotion strategies, and also shared their vision of the prospects for conceptual series development in Ukraine. Mirela Nastase emphasized that the distributor was highly involved in project development and production. She told that the series perfectly fit into the ZDFE catalog because criminal drama genre is a priority for the distributor. 

Mirela also told that the number of leading TV festivals showed a great interest in the project and fought for the right to be the first to present Hide and Seek in their program. “If HIDE AND SEEK would have appeared 4-5 years ago, then perhaps we would not have succeeded in such effective cooperation. But the project was created at the right time and in the right place, summed up Mirela. Ukrainian, and the world premiere of HIDE AND SEEK would take place in October 2019 on ICTV channel.

Central Asia was also in focus during the forum. According to Elina Karakulova, Country Director of Internews, a television in Kyrgyzstan remains the main source of information. An important shift in the development of the local TV industry occurred in 2014 when the transition to digital broadcasting took place. In 2017, the country had 60 local channels, last year they started launch of telemetry and Broadcasting Companies Association and Industrial Media Committee were created. It is expected, that the establishment of this infrastructure will boost the advertising market and it’s television segment, which is estimated around $ 8-10 million. This, will increase the production budgets. Among the foreign projects the most popular are TV shows produced in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, South Korea, India, and the USA. One of the Azerbaijani market characteristics is a focus on content produced in Turkey because of languages similarity ​​– Azerbaijani television broadcasts about 200 Turkish channels.

Ali Aliyev, Executive Director of Association of ICT market participants of Azerbaijan, said that five years ago the Azerbaijani government passed a law banning the broadcasting of foreign TV shows, which resulted the development of local production. Today, Azerbaijani companies already have experience in co-production with Turkish and Georgian colleagues.

The bi-lingual audience is a distinctive feature of Moldova as well. In 2018, government adopted a new legal code, according to which local broadcasters are obliged to display not less than eight hours of local content per day. According Dumitru Tira, CEO of Realitatea Media (Moldova), due to the bilingualism, the majority of population prefer Russian-language content and news as well as talk shows remain among the most popular. Despite the mentioned facts, broadcasters spend about $ 1 million annually on the purchase of foreign non-scripted content. The good example is series DETECTIVE GORCHAKOVA a case of co-production with Ukraine. 

The bilingualism also influences the local market of Kazakhstan. But according to Nikolay Pak, Director of First Creative Association (Kazakhstan), the most popular formats on Kazakhstani TV are melodramas in the Kazakh language. Among the foreign content, the most popular are TV shows and films produced in Ukraine or Russia. It is noteworthy that the cooperation with the Ukraine has intensified over the past few years – a great example is a co-production project KASYM. 

For the first time ever the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine became the oficcial partner of the forum. Behind this decision are steakholders' trust, forum reputation and tendency to sharing the best European practicies in Ukraine.

The day ended with good news: within the framework of the international media market KYIV MEDIA WEEK, it was made public that FILM.UA Distribution sold the rights to a film screening of the second part of one of the highest-grossing Ukrainian films – CRAZY WEDDING in Poland. However, it is not reported who signed the deal.