Editor’s Note: Back to the Future


I’ve been writing a lot about lean-back engagement, securing channel shelf space, the art and science of building a compelling schedule and the importance of bundles and aggregating—but I expect I’m not the only person who feels like they just hopped into Doctor Who’s Tardis for a trip to television’s past.

If you thought you had a handle on the streamer economy, sorry, that’s moved on. Global commissions are still happening, but not at the level they were. Studios that proudly declared they didn’t want to sell to anyone else because they had their own SVOD services have changed their minds and course-corrected amid the calibration across the media business. And the business is indeed recalibrating after an overabundance of content was produced for a seemingly untenable number of subscription services. That development has crashed head-on with broader macroeconomic forces as consumers feel an inflationary pinch and ad revenues take a hit.

We explore the ripple effects of this across every section of this edition of World Screen. We examine how co-production and financing models are evolving in the kids’ and drama sectors. We heard from leading factual executives about new opportunities in AVOD and a greater drive toward collaborations. The game-show format business is booming as broadcasters look for effective, cost-efficient ways to deliver loyal audiences. Cost efficiency was one of the themes that Rob Wade touched on in my conversation with him for this edition. The CEO of FOX Entertainment also outlined the company’s open-for-business approach as it looks for innovative partnerships globally. We heard about striking the critical balance between subscription and advertising in our wide-ranging interview with Warner Bros. Discovery’s international chief, Gerhard Zeiler. Thomas Rabe, CEO of RTL Group, weighed in on a similar sentiment for the European media giant as it navigates serving audiences on linear and on-demand. Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate, reflected on what the shifting nature of the streaming battles has meant for his business, which recently scaled up with the acquisition of Entertainment One. Our main feature on FAST channels spotlights the ups and downs of working in this space, whether you’re licensing to third-party services or looking to build your own thematic outlets. And Olivier Jollet at Pluto TV weighs in on why the ad-supported model and expert curation are resonating with audiences today.

Curation and discoverability came up in many of my conversations with media executives for this edition. We may have finally gotten past peak TV, but there’s no shortage of content—strikes in Hollywood notwithstanding. Amid an abundance of on-demand content, viewers are spending 10.5 minutes per session deciding what to watch, according to Nielsen’s 2023 State of Play report. As of June of this year, viewers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico and Germany had access to 2.7 million titles. Almost 87 percent of those were available on streaming platforms. Audiences can also access nearly 40,000 individual FAST channels, streaming providers and aggregators, Nielsen said. And what are consumers doing when they spend too much time wading through that? They go and do something else. Oops.

AI may eventually help, with many hopeful that improvements in user interfaces will make it easier to surface channels and titles—hopefully ones that don’t just speak to your existing viewing habits. There’s really nothing better than stumbling upon a show you never would have expected to watch—and perhaps it lets you experience a world you had never even considered.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that aspect of diversity lately—what it means for my own world to be seen. In a delightful conversation with British writer and producer Suk Pannu about his show Mrs Sidhu Investigates, we talked about the beloved Indian game Carrom. Growing up, I had one in my home; the board game was a regular pastime with my siblings, and we were often asked about it by friends who had never seen one before. Mrs Sidhu Investigates drops a Carrom board into the home of its title character without any reference; it’s just there, not as a foreign object that needs to be explained but as an everyday item in the house. He said he kept it in as an Easter egg of sorts for fellow members of the Diaspora. I rather enjoyed being in on the joke. “Growing up, when I had dreamt about this character, I had never seen an Asian female lead character outside of Bollywood,” Pannu told me. “When I wrote this, one of the really important things for me was her agency; she could have agency as an Asian character beyond the immigrant story. That is liberating. And it’s subtle. We’re not jumping up and down on it; it’s just there.”

Whatever shifts are still to come in the content landscape, I hope that this new, revelatory emphasis on authenticity, on championing undiscovered stories that really do deserve to be told, doesn’t get swept up in the recalibration.