2023: The Year in Drama


To say it was a challenging year for the scripted business would be putting it mildly. The writers’ and actors’ strikes in the U.S. led to protracted delays, compounding the climate of angst in place since the streamers upended their models again. The good news? More opportunities for partnerships and new kinds of deals. And with commissioning activity having dipped, acquisitions are likely to tick up in 2024 as cash-strapped broadcasters and platforms look for smarter ways to do more with less.

Despite the challenges of 2023, M&A continued to reshape the sector. As the year came to a close, Lionsgate completed its acquisition of Entertainment One (eOne) and announced a plan to split its television and film and media networks and OTT segments, with Lionsgate Studios to be set up as a separate publicly traded entity. Banijay significantly expanded its scripted business in 2023, acquiring The Forge; taking stakes in Belgium’s jonnydepony, James Norton and Kitty Kaletsky’s Rabbit Track Pictures and Sir Lenny Henry’s Esmerelda; and backing Conker Pictures in the U.K. and the new French label Screen Line Productions.

Other M&A key moves included Kino Lorber and First Look Media forming a new joint venture to house MHz Choice and Topic; 5th Planet Games and Skybound Entertainment launching a joint acquisition for the Nordic production company Sagafilm; Peter Chernin’s The North Road Company making its first major international acquisition with the Turkish film and TV producer Karga Seven Pictures; Mediawan investing in 24 25 Films; and The Mediapro Studio adding to its group of companies Cimarrón, a producer with bases in Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico. BBC Studios introduced the new scripted production label River Pictures, led by Andrew Morrissey and Michael Parke. And Fifth Season-backed Blink49 Studios, led by John Morayniss, made a significant investment in Canadian production outfit Front Street Pictures. Meanwhile, Fremantle aligned with the Israel-based IBI Investment House to launch a €150 million ($164 million) fund to finance scripted television and film projects.

Distributors and producers of scale also expanded their roster of talent deals in 2023. Of note, Greg Berlanti signed a new overall deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, ensuring that Berlanti Productions will remain based at Warner Bros. for its television operations into the year 2027. Fremantle secured a first-look deal with Nine Hours, the new production label set up by All Quiet on the Western Front director Edward Berger and partner Luke Rivett. Sony Pictures Television clinched a multiyear producing deal with Álvaro Morte through his production company, 300 Pistolas. Cineflix Studios landed a first-look deal with Canadian scripted producer December Films. Producer Patrick Daly and his Caledonia Productions production house signed a first-look deal with Fremantle’s Passenger. Ascendant Fox, the production outfit behind the BBC One Boiling Point series and movie, inked a development deal with BBC Studios.

Amid cost woes and delays, scripted formats had a banner year across the globe, with a few notable hotspots. In Turkey, for example, Dori Media Group licensed the remake rights for the Israeli drama Shtisel to OGM Pictures, and FOX Turkey rolled out a local version of Without Family from Nippon TV. Turkish series also caught the imagination of producers and broadcasters around the world. The drama Never Let Go, from Global Agency, was localized for Antena 1 in Romania. An Indian adaptation of Global Agency’s 1001 Nights launched on Sony Entertainment Television and SonyLIV. India proved to be a hotspot for remakes from other territories, too. Banijay’s Endemol Shine India is working with Saif Ali Khan and his Black Knight Films production banner on a local version of the hit Danish/Swedish drama Bron/Broen (The Bridge). All3Media International signed a format deal for The Forge’s drama Dark Money on SonyLIV and aligned with BBC Studios India Production for two adaptations, including Shameless. Korea also emerged as a hub of scripted format acquisitions and sales. Seoul-based Something Special optioned Israel’s Hostages. The Korean production company Next Entertainment World acquired the rights to adapt Orphan Black from Boat Rocker. True CJ Creations is working on Thai adaptations of several CJ ENM hit titles, beginning with a localized remake of Black Dog. CJ ENM also inked a deal with Firebird Pictures for a remake of the Korean drama format Train in the U.K. NHK Enterprises and the South Korean production house Big Ocean ENM inked an agreement for an adaptation of the Japanese drama I’ll Still Love You Ten Years from Now.

Elsewhere, BBC Studios’ Doctor Foster is being remade in Japan by Nippon TV. FOX gave a straight-to-series order to the medical procedural drama Doc, based on the Italian series Doc—Nelle tue mani created by Lux Vide. The Canadian drama Plan B secured a local treatment in Germany for ZDF. All3Media International’s Informer was remade for NDR, ARD Degeto, ARTE and NRK. Banijay France’s Terence Films and Gétévé Productions co-produced Rivière-Perdue, an adaptation of the Spanish crime thriller La Caza. Monteperdido, for TF1. Global Station acquired RCN’s Café con Aroma de Mujer format through Orasi Media for Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Nippon TV secured a deal for its award-winning drama series Homeroom to be localized in Thailand in partnership with Juvenile (JUVE9) and aligned with Turkey’s Medyapim for Mother and Woman – My Life for My Children – to be adapted for MBC in the Middle East. Adi Hasak and Adi TV Studios unveiled Karantina, an international production based on the ZDF format Tempel. All3Media International inked a deal with Falcon Pictures that will see the Indonesian production house produce local adaptations of three scripted formats, including Cheat.

Known IP also continued to make waves in 2023, with an abundance of novel, comic book, film and podcast adaptations and a slew of franchise extensions. Of note, AMC Networks expanded The Walking Dead and Anne Rice’s Immortal Universe; STARZ greenlit an Outlander prequel; Showtime revealed plans to expand Dexter and Billions; Max ordered prequels to the hit IT films and Game of Thrones and an original Harry Potter scripted series; Skydance Television secured an exclusive first-look deal with author James Patterson to develop a slate of shows based on a selection of his top-selling book series; Citytv greenlit its adaptation of the Law & Order franchise with the crime drama Law & Order Toronto: Criminal Intent; BBC and ZDF commissioned The Famous Five from Moonage Pictures and Nicolas Winding Refn; Sony Television International and Eleven teamed to adapt Jeffrey Archer’s Kane and Abel trilogy as a TV series; and an as-yet-untitled Bosch spin-off about Renée Ballard was greenlit by Prime Video, which also confirmed a series order for the drama Cruel Intentions, inspired by the iconic ’90s film of the same name.

Producers also turned to the well of true tales as they sought out ideas that will capture audiences’ attention in an ever-more-fragmented market. The BBC commissioned Grenfell, a drama about the deadly 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower in West London, from writer and director Peter Kosminsky, and Kidnapped, based on the true story of Chloe Ayling, a British model who was abducted in Italy in 2017. It also partnered with Netflix for Lockerbie. ITV commissioned a series based on Delia Balmer’s autobiography Living With a Serial Killer and one on the life of Ruth Ellis. Fremantle, Revolution Films, Passenger and Anonymous Content are co-producing Fall of the God of Cars about Carlos Ghosn. BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jeremy Brock is adapting William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company. Banijay UK’s Kudos partnered with Sarah Lancashire’s Via Pictures and BAFTA-winning screenwriter Steven Knight to develop a series based on William Shakespeare’s life. Apple TV+ landed the eight-episode French drama Carême, about the world’s first celebrity chef, Antonin Carême. Jeff Pope is penning Suspect: The Shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes for Disney+. Netflix ordered a limited series based on the real-life story of the Corby poisonings. ZDF Studios aligned with Non Stop Studios and La Sagrada Familia to develop a drama series on the life of Formula 1 racing legend Juan Manuel Fangio and with Boogie Entertainment and Aristos Films to co-produce The Kim Dotcom Story.

The year was also marked by the continued surge in global interest in Turkish and Korean series, a wealth of activity in the Spanish-language content space and a renewed emphasis on partnerships. For example, eight public-service broadcasters from northwestern Europe—ZDF (Germany), NPO (the Netherlands), VRT (Belgium), SVT (Sweden), DR (Denmark), Yle (Finland), RÚV (Iceland) and NRK (Norway)—came together to form New8, a collaboration that will see the pubcasters sharing drama series.

FAST also gained traction in the scripted space last year with several new channels and some marquee commissions and acquisitions. And producers and distributors are increasingly looking at the metaverse as a new space to engage with fans. For example, Banijay Brands partnered with The Sandbox to create metaverse spin-offs of Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror. The Sandbox also welcomed the Turkish drama Magnificent Century.

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