Netflix – Antenna Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Magical Realism and Fictional Verisimilitude in Medellín Mon, 07 Sep 2015 14:00:51 +0000 poster for Marcos with Central and South America outlined in cocaine

Narcos is a new Netflix original series that premiered all its 10 episodes just before start of the network TV fall season. It centers around a U.S. DEA officer in the 1980s who is sent to Colombia to follow the constantly expanding, multi million dollar cocaine trade to its sources. He soon encounters infamous Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar and the show follows the police and DEA agents’ attempts to capture and kill Escobar. There are three things that struck me in the first ten minutes and that are all indicative of the type of show Narcos is:

split image: on left, Pablo Escobar as played by Wagner Moura; on right, Pablo Escobar, historical shot

(1) the layered framing: We start with a voiceover comparing present day NSA surveillance with the much more primitive methods used in the ’80s only to then move back yet again to the early ’70s and a strongly abbreviated history of Pinochet’s military coup. The voiceover narrative evokes films like Goodfellas and Casino, gangster narratives told after the fact. In the end, however, the voiceover keeps the viewer at a distance and often carries the burden of exposition of the highly complex historical and political realities that create the backdrop to the moments we see on screen. In fact, at times it feels like the complexities of reality are at odds with the need for characterization, if not sympathetic protagonists, within this fiction.

tanks and soldiers in urban setting ready to strike. seemingly historical footage

(2) the original footage: In the brief historical summaries, the text uses historical footage suggesting the historical veracity of the narrative. In fact, the entire pacing combined with the voiceover often resembles a documentary more than a television drama. Unlike historical fiction that focuses on fictional or composite characters to elucidate the truth of an era or a phenomenon, Narcos places Pablo Escobar front and center, telling his story as fact. And yet the entirety of reality is undermined by prefacing the first episode with defining magic realism as “a realistic setting…invaded by something too strange to believe.” The layering and the verisimilitude suggest that the show is an epistemological inquiry to get to the truths of Pablo Escobar, and the show endeavors to unravel those truths slowly and carefully. The leisurely pacing and often gorgeous backdrop scenery with its clearly marked ’80s fashion all add to a level of care that supports this endeavor—all the while foregrounding and enforcing its fictionality.

face shot of Escobar with clear English subtitle, reading I am Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria.

(3) the language: As a native German speaker, few things throw me out of a show more quickly than Germans in Germany speaking accented English to one another (like in the recent Sense8). If I suspend my disbelief, they should speak fluent English just like any Star Trek alien does. Or they should be German speaking German and just be subtitled. Narcos yet again tries to invoke a sense of authenticity and documentary evidence by presenting the large majority of the show in Spanish with subtitles. However, I use the term “tries” purposefully, because while I was initially very excited about the choice to present a show primarily in subtitles, it turns out verisimilitude only goes so far: Wagner Moura, who plays Pablo Escobar, is Brazilian (apparently he and director José Padilha are BFFs). My Spanish native speaker friends tell me that the show is surprisingly good in its linguistic authenticity, but that cannot make up for the fact that the central character speaks Colombian Spanish with a clearly noticeable Brazilian accent. Apparently, US monolinguals or, at least, non-Spanish speakers are the primary, if not only, audience.

mockup web page for Medellin with Vincent Chase and Billy Walsh named. At bottom, image of dead on market square. At right Vincent Chase playing Escobar holding gun in relief.

Last not least: I’m glad I’m not the only one who immediately thought back to Entourage’s Vincent Chase playing Pablo Escobar.


Streaming Across Borders: The Digital Single Market, Web-Based Television and the “Global” Viewer Thu, 04 Jun 2015 11:00:54 +0000 eudigitalsinglemarketPost by Sam Ward, University of Nottingham

This post continues the ongoing “From Nottingham and Beyond” series, with contributions from faculty and alumni of the University of Nottingham’s Department of Culture, Film and Media. This week’s contributor is Sam Ward, PhD candidate in Film and Television Studies in our department and Visiting Lecturer in the University of Roehampton’s Department of Media, Culture and Language. 

Last month, the European Commission (the executive body of the European Union) announced plans for its Digital Single Market (DSM) initiative. Over the next two years, the initiative aims to increase cross-border trade in media and communications and standardize the consumer experience across the continent. Among a variety of likely ramifications, the proposals have sparked warnings that the BBC will be forced to make its iPlayer on-demand platform available outside the UK. Since its launch in 2007, the iPlayer has proven a popular aspect of the BBC’s “public purpose” in “delivering to the public the benefit of emerging media technologies and services.” But it remains available only on British soil, where it is paid out of the universal license fee. In the press conference announcing the DSM, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker complained of such “national silos,” envisioning instead a globe-trotting, always-connected media consumer: “You can drive from Talinn to Turin without once showing your passport, but you can’t stream your favorite TV shows from home once you get there.”

In her contribution to this column last month, Elizabeth Evans pointed to the important place of age in the industrial discourse surrounding digital television consumption. With this post, I want to continue with the question of how new forms of viewing are framed, but in terms of the equally definitive discourse of global connectedness. Just as Evans points out that “post-broadcast” viewing habits are reflexively associated with a “youth” demographic, the idea that viewers should be allowed to take the iPlayer with them as they move across borders reflects how those same viewing habits are increasingly tied to transnational flows. Traditional scheduled channels have always been perceived as a key aspect of what makes a television system national – especially, perhaps, in countries such as Britain where the most-watched channels have historically been those with a public-service remit requiring them to serve national cultural and economic interests. So far, the iPlayer has functioned as a digital extension of this logic, making the DSM all the more notable. (This is especially significant at a time when a newly elected British government prepares for both a referendum on the country’s membership of the EU and, as Evans explains, a potential renegotiation of the BBC’s revenue model.)

pic2The DSM will reportedly also have a significant impact on how commercial VOD platforms such as Netflix and Amazon operate on the continent. It promises to enforce an end to “unjustified” geo-blocking and to consider broadening the scope of the EC’s Satellite and Cable Directive to account for online services. In fact, a more borderless European digital market would seem to be compatible with the promotional positioning of these U.S.-based services, which are commonly framed in terms of a deterritorialized mode of consumption. In the run-up to Netflix’s UK launch in 2012 – marking its first venture into Europe – its CEO Reed Hastings foresaw “a service for the world’s best content for the world’s citizens.” Hastings’ rhetoric epitomizes the tendency for streaming and downloading in the UK to be strongly associated with the transnational flow of content. A glance at the main webpage of any commercial VOD service available in the country presents a more or less entirely non-British range of content. This is the case even with British-based services such as Blinkbox (whose flagship offerings currently include HBO’s Game of Thrones, The CW’s Arrow and Danish period drama 1864, among many other imports, and just a handful of old BBC series). Netflix has emerged as the most popular subscription streaming service largely thanks to its being the only way British viewers could watch all five seasons of AMC’s Breaking Bad (known here as a “Netflix hit”) and its exclusive rights to House of Cards.

At the same time, the national territory remains a key point of reference for viewers and providers alike. To continue with the example of Netflix, it has increasingly sought to integrate itself directly with the domestic system, both in technical and cultural terms. The company has negotiated several partnerships with broadcast-based platforms to make its content accessible via web-connected television sets, as well as laptops and tablet computers. Meanwhile, its imported drama is commonly advertised with the help of domestically familiar personalities, as with Ricky Gervais’ flying tour around flagship Netflix shows in a promo from last year.

Since rolling out in several European and Asian countries, Netflix has opened up to commissioned content from domestic markets across its non-U.S. territories. The Crown, a £100 million adaptation of a play about Queen Elizabeth II, is planned for 2016, produced by British production company Left Bank Pictures.

Playwright Peter Morgan’s The Audience, source of the announced Netflix adaptation The Crown.

More recently, Netflix has for the first time issued an open commissioning brief to UK companies for factual and entertainment content. Netflix report that this new content will be made available simultaneously in all the territories in which it is active, as had been the case for House of Cards. This hugely expensive strategy may yet see the realization of Hastings’ global customer. As The Hollywood Reporter put it, “Instead of waiting for Europe to create a single digital market, Netflix will do it itself.”

For now, what is clear is that both the European Commission and the new corporate powers of the “post-broadcast” era are keen to define technological connectivity as intimately linked with transnational connectivity. This gives rise to a host of pressing questions for media scholars: about television’s historical tethering to the national sphere, which will undoubtedly persist even as transnational projects flourish; about the textual characteristics of content Hastings has in mind for Netflix’s “global” citizen-consumer (note, for example, the clear attraction of one of Britain’s most successful world exports as subject matter for The Crown); and about the reception of both the content and the brands of these new providers among audiences internationally. The key question for all concerned is whether the true potential of any “digital single market” lies in developing a newly transnationalized form of European public-service media, or simply in keeping pace with the demands of commercial giants’ global expansion.


Moving Into a Fuller House: Television Reboots, Nostalgia, and Time Fri, 29 May 2015 13:25:04 +0000 Post by Mark Lashley, La Salle University


Well, technology is a glittering lure. But there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash – if they have a sentimental bond with the product…. [I]n Greek, “nostalgia” literally means “the pain from an old wound.” It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone.

            – Mad Men (Season 1, Episode 13: “The Wheel”)

Certainly you’ll recall that particular Don Draper pitch from an early standout episode of Mad Men, co-written by series creator Matthew Weiner. While embedded with countless themes, Mad Men for much of its viewing audience was a show about connecting with a past, a time and setting of which it was never really a part, but which is both recognizable and sentimental (a topic that Tsapovsky & Frosh examine in a recent Media, Culture and Society article). This pitch was meant to sell a tangible product – the Kodak Carousel – but even in his fictional universe, Don Draper probably wasn’t the first ad man to think of using nostalgia as a vehicle for sales. Today, we see many examples of long gone television series and films finding new life, sold to audiences on the premise of memory.

I use Mad Men as an example for televised nostalgia both because of its recency and its thematic engagement with these ideas, but there are a few threads that connect the show to the current trend of resurrected nostalgia properties on television. There’s the fact that Mad Men existed as a show about memory (or the avoidance thereof) and rebirth. And there’s the recognition of the platform on which many of the show’s fans first encountered it – Netflix, the burgeoning media giant that is in the process of giving new life to several beloved properties. One can imagine Ted Sarandos and his brethren watching “The Wheel” a time or two before making some of their recent programming decisions. A “twinge in your heart” for Full House? Well, for a certain generation, perhaps.

full-houseThe much buzzed about Fuller House, a many-years-later follow-up to the 1990s ABC staple, certainly does not mark the first time programmers have banked on nostalgia to build audiences. Even Full House progenitor The Brady Bunch had a (bizarrely soapy) sequel in 1990. But for at least the first half century of television history, the medium had little tendency to look back on itself. As scholars like Holdsworth (2011) and others have noted, the notion of television as an ephemeral or disposable media form is diminishing. To some extent, television series as ephemera (and this follows for film as well) began to lose steam early in the post-network era as rerun culture took hold on cable and in syndication. Now, though, television series exist in readily accessible archives, and the economic value of that access is not insignificant; just look at FX Networks’ success with #EverySimpsonsEver or Hulu’s recent acquisition of exclusive streaming rights to Seinfeld for a rumored $700,000 an episode (the show launches on the platform in late June).

To some extent, the archival presence of series like these (among hundreds of others) removes those shows from time. I know many undergraduate students who love shows like Full House and Seinfeld, even though most of those shows’ episodes were produced before the students were born. Yet for many others who experienced them years ago on an episodic basis, these shows are important signifiers of a bygone time – Draper’s “sentimental bond.” The cross section of these two experiences may be key in influencing platforms like Netflix to take a chance on new episodes of a series like Full House. Even 25 years later, in a more cynical television landscape, it’s a property that can resonate with both young and old.

wet_hot_american_summerOf course, there are nostalgia properties that would appear far less foolproof, like Netflix’s upcoming prequel to 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer. The film itself was a commercial flop that gained a cult audience through DVD and streaming. It also featured a huge ensemble cast including Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, and Bradley Cooper, whose names are far more recognizable now than they were at the time of the film’s release, and all of whom have returned for First Day of Camp (and are joined by big name newcomers like Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig). It may be the case that Netflix will find greater success with their spinoff series than the original film could ever hope of boasting. And this is not the first time that Netflix has revived a cult property, as the (10 years delayed) fourth season of Arrested Development can attest.

The reboot phenomenon is certainly not unique to Netflix, and over the top providers are not the only content hosts that are reaching into the past for programming ideas. ABC’s fall schedule includes The Muppets, a behind-the-scenes, mockumentary-style look at the fictional entertainers. Showtime’s on-again, off-again reboot of Twin Peaks is back on, with director David Lynch on board. Fox is bringing back The X-Files for a limited series event in January (after doing the same for 24 last season). And there are a surprising number of other nostalgia properties coming to the small screen soon.

Is there more to this phenomenon than just a reflexive turn among contemporary television audiences? It’s doubtful that all of these properties will be commercially or critically successful, so these reboots are not safe bets for networks and streaming services any more than a series featuring a well known and likeable star would be (remember The Michael J. Fox Show?). Perhaps television as it stands now is effectively eradicating time. Already, newcomers to a show like Arrested Development can watch seasons one through four in a single binge, utterly unaware of the lapse in time that made the fourth season notable (and controversial). In a few years, a viewer will watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks and dive right in to the sequel, or watch early episodes of Full House interspersed with the travails of grownup D.J. Tanner on Fuller House.

Even as we have constructed television in terms beyond the ephemeral, we still often think of the medium as a vehicle for public memory, when in fact the nostalgic “twinge” or “bond” is an individual one. As content demands increase, and more money is spent resurrecting the old, it will be interesting to see if audiences still crave more of their favorites, or seek a renaissance of the new.


Marvel, Wired? Daredevil and Visual Branding in the MCU Fri, 01 May 2015 12:42:41 +0000 Daredevil poster

Figure 1: Texturally rich costuming of Matt Murdock character in Daredevil.

Post by Piers Britton, University of Redlands.

How far are Marvel Studios’ film and television franchises visually coded for homogeneity? How insistently, that is to say, is brand identity maintained at the levels of design, cinematography, editing and post-production processing? This question seems worth pursuing in relation to Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix, 2015), which has already been critically positioned as divergent from prior entries in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” super-franchise. All the MCU films since 2008 have been rated PG-13, while the ABC television series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013–) and Marvel’s Agent Carter (2014-15) are consistently anodyne, even at their darkest. Daredevil, by contrast, is already notorious for its frequent and intensely graphic violence, which earned it a TVMA certification, and for the conflicted nature of its anti-heroic protagonist. This shift in tone is not the only departure from the prior Marvel norm. Much more assertively than Agent Carter, and even more than the DC offerings on the CW, the new show emphasizes that its protagonist is one of Marvel’s “street-level” superheroes, with the action never straying beyond Hell’s Kitchen and the narrative focusing heavily on the socially disadvantaged and marginalized. While it is not the first Marvel property to introduce comic-book characters without their familiar costume trappings and idiosyncrasies of grooming, Daredevil has arguably gone further than its predecessors in this regard. For example, the series reduces the comics’ hirsute, flamboyantly coiffed and green-ulster-clad Leland Owlsley (Bob Gunton) to a deceptively avuncular elderly man with thinning hair and a short back and sides, dressed in earth-toned tweeds. Indeed, Daredevil even deprives Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) of his red superhero suit until the climax of the final episode.

Showrunner Steven DeKnight has underscored the ways in which Daredevil differs visually from network series like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., noting that he and his D.P., Matt Lloyd, “wanted to be able to do a show that was literally darker than what you would see on a network,” where series tend to be “very bright, very evenly lit,” and further that they “wanted to take more of the color palette of the classic movies of the ’70s, the Dog Day Afternoon and French Connection and Taxi Driver.” The series’ production designer, Loren Weeks, also emphasizes Daredevil’s departure from the sleek, well-appointed and technology-rich environments that typify Marvel’s cinematic tales of billionaire playboys, demigods and super-soldiers. Tellingly, Weeks claims: “We’re more The Wire than other Marvel movies. It’s not the stuff you see in Agents of SHIELD, it’s the stuff you see every day.”

Stress on the quotidian, invocation of the ultra-realist Wire, insistence on chiaroscuro lighting (with its inevitable noir associations), and reference to the subdued palette of dour seventies thrillers all serve to distance Daredevil not only from other Marvel properties but also from other broadly cognate television shows. They rhetorically position the series as something “grittier” than the quasi-realist narratives of street-level superheroes in Arrow (CW, 2012–) and The Flash (CW, 2014–). Indeed, if there is a DC comparison to be made, it is with the notoriously tenebrous and bleak Dark Knight films. So, if we are to take Weeks’ and DeKnight’s remarks at face value, how does the visual style of Daredevil fulfill the branding imperative of offering variety within identity and novelty within continuity?

A number of recurrent or repeated visual motifs both in Daredevil’s paratextual materials—posters, publicity stills, and so on—and in the episodes themselves serve to weld strongly to Marvel’s other film and television, and to its comic-book lineage. Use of strong color in Daredevil represents the most interesting variation on established Marvel brand elements. MCU style in toto is defined by chromatic intensity and richness (in contradistinction to the DC film and television “multiverse” that has gradually developed since Batman Begins). Dominant color values have varied, with Phase Two movies and the second series of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. frequently exhibiting lower values and lower-key lighting than Phase One. Even so, selective, punctuative use of high-intensity colors is endemic to Marvel’s television and film offerings. Only the environments and personnel of S.H.I.E.L.D. are stripped of high value and saturated color; otherwise, the heroes and villains and their worlds are as bright as the Marvel logo, and the comic-book pages we glimpse in the animated version of that logo that heads each film and television show from the MCU. In most cases, focal points of vibrant color are typically located one way or another on the bodies of the protagonists, from Iron Man’s scarlet and gold livery to Peggy Carter’s blue suit, white blouse and red hat (used so extensively in publicity materials for Agent Carter), and from Thor’s flaxen hair to the Hulk’s green skin.

Fig. 2

Figure 2: Superficially neutral costuming of Wilson Fisk character in Daredevil

Daredevil largely displaces intense color from bodies, except in the case of the saturated red costume worn by the “ninja” villain, Nobu (Peter Shinkoda), in a watershed fight scene. As befits a faux-realist television series, and especially one that unfolds over thirteen instantly reviewable episodes, the devil is in the details in Stephanie Maslansky’s costumes; bold gestures are correspondingly few and far between. Thus Matt Murdock’s suits are mostly mid-value monochrome but his clothes are texturally rich—shirts, for example, are nubby oxford rather than smooth poplin—suggesting the blind man’s heightened reliance on tactility (Fig. 1). By the same token, wisecracking Foggy Nelson (Eldon Hensen) is also superficially neutral in his dress, but the printed shirt fabrics and animal-motif ties reward leisurely, close inspection and add a “quirky but not flamboyant” note – and so on. Unmodified strong color is eschewed in inverse proportion to the dominance of all these surface nuances, a choice that is most notable in the reimagining of principal antagonist Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). The white suits and ascot of the comic book Kingpin are relegated to an “Easter egg” joke in the fifth episode, while Fisk’s open-necked silk shirts and mohair-tonic, three-piece suits for the series are either black, gray or muted blue, the surface of the latter sometimes broken up with self-stripes that further mitigate saturation (Fig. 2).

Figure 3

Figure 3: Vivid lighting in Daredevil.

Vivid color is mainly a property of environments, and more specifically the illumination of environments, in Daredevil. Murdock speaks of experiencing “a world on fire,” and in addition to a couple of livid-red POV shots simulating this for the audience, the idea is echoed each episode in the opening credits, which show New York landmarks and finally Daredevil himself forming viscously out of a red haze. A no-less insistent leitmotiv is the acid yellow and green light suffusing the panes of the picture windows that are endemic to the various warehouse and loft spaces in which so much of the nocturnal action takes place — including Murdock’s own apartment (Fig. 3). This sickly glow can in most cases be rationalized as light pollution from neon signage and street lamps (the now celebrated hallway fight from the second episode is one of the exceptions), but this is ultimately beside the point. The device is surely used chiefly because the grid of glazing bars in these windows provides a strong, stylized, quasi-graphic backdrop to action – and perhaps because both the strong color fields and insistent linearity recall the simplified backgrounds beloved of comic-book inkers and colorists (Fig. 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4: Example of simplified backgrounds of classic comic books.

Figure 5

Figure 5: Netflix’s posters for Daredevil.

Very little of this disembodied color creates as potent an effect as Netflix’s Hopperesque banner and posters for Daredevil (Fig. 5), which feature a cityscape bathed in the super-intense blue that hyperbolically represents nighttime in screen media as well as some comic strips. It is in these paratextual images that the “Marvelness” of Daredevil is perhaps most economically and powerfully expressed. Even so, and notwithstanding analogies with The Wire and Dog Day Afternoon, Daredevil’s imagery consistently reflects the fact that, as Loren Weeks puts it: “We didn’t want to be too literal with the real. It is the Marvel universe, after all.”


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Devilish Partners: Daredevil, Netflix, and Exclusive Original Programming Tue, 21 Apr 2015 12:00:07 +0000 Daredevil Poster

Ahead of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and the summer blockbuster frenzy, a smaller Marvel property, Daredevil, launched April 10 on Netflix. The 13-episode season of Daredevil is the first deliverable of a $200 million, 60-hour deal with Netflix to bring Marvel’s “street level” characters to life on the small, streaming screen. This deal includes Daredevil, this fall’s AKA Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in 2016, and an Avengers-esque team-up show, The Defenders, likely targeted for 2017. As the first of its ilk, Daredevil marks not only a milestone for Netflix’s original content strategy, but also the expansion of Marvel Television, currently responsible for ABC’s Agent’s of S.H.I.E.L.D, which has received, at best, mixed responses from fans and mediocre ratings for a network series.

For the uninitiated, Daredevil follows the exploits of Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox)–blind lawyer by day, extrasensory crime fighter by night–as he attempts to reclaim the streets of a retrograde Hell’s Kitchen from a criminal syndicate lead by Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). Steven S. DeKnight (executive producer, Spartacus) took over showrunner duties from Drew Goddard (dir. and writer, Cabin in the Woods) after Goddard left the show to pursue a Spider-Man project at Sony Pictures ten weeks before principal photography began. Despite the hiccup, DeKnight was able to keep the ball rolling and Daredevil remained on schedule.

Joining the likes of House of Cards (2012-) and Orange is the New Black (2013-), Daredevil is only the latest example of Netflix’s aggressive original content strategy. Owing to increasing competition in the streaming space with Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO (including the recently introduced standalone HBO Now), securing exclusive, licensed content has become more difficult and expensive. Opting to fund original programming means Netflix can brand itself not only through its proprietary algorithmic recommendation engine, but also through its original, critically acclaimed series, the latest of which also happens to be set within the astronomically successful Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) franchise.

Consisting of films like Iron Man (2008), The Avengers (2012), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), the MCU has broken box office records, revitalized the Marvel brand under its current owner Disney, and arguably spearheaded the golden era of comic book movies in Hollywood. And with the release of 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the MCU has become the highest grossing movie franchise in history, topping the Harry Potter franchise in total box office revenue. Moreover, The Avengers and Iron Man 3 (2013) hold the records for the first and second highest opening weekend box office at $207 and $174 million, respectively. With multiple films releasing every year, and with Marvel expanding its transmedia storytelling to comics and Marvel Television series across networks and platforms, the MCU looks to increase its commercial dominance in the decade to come.

The ascendance of the MCU at the box office and within popular culture is part of a more general superhero zeitgeist in entertainment media. This zeitgeist arguably illustrates the movement of comic book properties from the margins of popular culture to its proverbial center, now prominent not only at the box office, but also increasingly in the living room. The last several years have seen comic book properties invade the television space, led primarily by Warner Bros.-owned DC Comic properties with shows like CW’s Arrow (2012-) and Flash (2014-), Fox’s Gotham (2014-), and NBC’s Constantine (2014-), to say nothing of AMC’s runaway hit The Walking Dead (2010-), one of the few successful franchises not under the Marvel or DC umbrella.

Starting with Daredevil, Netflix has joined the comic book hero zeitgeist, choosing to plant its flag squarely within the MCU. By all accounts, Daredevil has proven a critical, if not commercial, success over the first week of its availability. While praise is spread throughout the series, one particular hallway fight scene–an homage to Park Chan-wook’s Old Boy (2003) in episode two, “Cut Man”–has proven especially popular among viewers, and has been broadcast across social media and featured in dozens of articles.

Yet while it’s easy to scan the Internet for general praise of Daredevil’s 13-episode run, the show’s actual viewership is more difficult to determine. While Netflix claims over 60 million global subscribers, we do not know what percentage of these watched Daredevil during its first weekend. This is due to Netflix’s infamous silence when it comes to ratings for their original programming. Without advertisers, Netflix ascribes very different value to its own internal metrics, placing much more emphasis on shelf-life viewing rather than viewership over any particular period.

Yet one metric pertaining to the program’s popularity we do have access to is its estimated piracy numbers. Despite Netflix being available in over 50 countries for around $10 per month, over 2.1 million users illegally downloaded episodes of Daredevil in its first week of availability, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio, a figure topped only by the reigning champ of pirated programs, HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-).

Early indications suggest Marvel Television and Netflix’s 60-hour experiment has so far been a success for both companies. Netflix stock just skyrocketed after a company announcement of higher-than-expected global subscriber gains, making the streaming company now worth more than media giants like CBS and Viacom. Additionally, despite four other Marvel series scheduled to hit Netflix over the next two years, people are already asking about a second season of Daredevil. Owing to the fact Netflix has already renewed OITNB for a fourth season ahead of its June season three launch, one can assume a Daredevil season two announcement is not far off, depending on the particulars of Netflix’s deal with Marvel, of course.

In their partnership, Marvel Television (in conjunction with ABC Studios) gains a robust, popular distribution platform for their franchise product, and Netflix strengthens its catalog of original content while providing a corner of the wildly successful MCU not available anywhere else.

Yet in addition to the context of its production and initial reception, Daredevil seems ripe for further critical analysis. For instance: How does the early success of Daredevil further cement the place of comic book heroes within popular film and television, and how long will this genre remain favorable? Also, having emphasized its on-location shooting in New York City, how does Daredevil evoke authenticity in the construction of its narrative spaces, and what value is there in this authenticity? Finally, what does the deal between Marvel Television and Netflix signal for the future of franchise television and transmedia production and distribution?


What the Canadian Netflix Says About Canadians (and Netflix) Fri, 13 Mar 2015 20:27:56 +0000 Netflix-Canada-ReviewNetflix is very big in Canada. The company has recently claimed 4.6 million people subscribe to its Canadian service.  A study by a local software company estimated that somewhere between 30-40% of downstream traffic in peak hours belongs to Netflix. In addition, a large number (one report claims up to 35%) of Netflix subscribers access the U.S. version of the site through VPNs, watching shows like Louie or films like American Psycho that are unavailable on the Canadian service for rights reasons. If my cord-cutting students are a faint indication of overall use, their references to shows like Friends and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air suggest that the reduced catalogue (some estimates say its 50% of the American service) has recirculated old television programs much like re-runs.  These shows are “new to them.”

When we talk about Netflix in media studies we tend to focus on how its algorithms frame the user’s experience.  But there is more to the service as a cultural phenomenon than big data.  Think about when we study how different versions of format television programs are “localized.” We wonder about the politics – cultural and economic – involved in “Canadianizing” something like Idol or Project Runway. What if we gave Netflix the same treatment?

netflix-reed-hastings1A striking feature about the Internet has been the absence of cultural nationalist rhetoric. No one was calling for Canadian editions of social networking sites like Facebook or suggesting that Google made it difficult for Canadians to “tell their stories.” While these platforms may have piqued the interest of privacy officials and the security establishment, Netflix has awakened those in Canada’s cultural industries. Representatives in the creative sector are concerned that Netflix operates outside of the policy framework that supports the production of Canadian television. Those in Canada’s highly protected broadcasting industry – that has companies with properties across media platforms from newspapers to telecommunications – are complaining that they cannot compete with Netflix because it does not have content regulations and other regulations that they have to follow.  The regulator (known in Canada by the acronym CRTC) is furious at Netflix for refusing to release subscriber information during a recent round of public hearings on the future of television (the company claimed it was not legally required to do so). With an election looming the ruling Conservatives – positioning themselves as “consumer-friendly” – have promised that they will not issue a “Netflix tax” any time soon, despite the efforts of one of the provinces to advocate for that very thing.

Canadians’ use of multiple versions of Netflix serves as a reminder of the cultures and practices of cross-border shopping that are part of Canadian life. During the 1990s some Canadian houses had satellite dishes and people would “know a guy” who could help them de-scramble services like Direct TV when substandard Canadian equivalents were on the marketplace. The same could be said for international broadcasters that were not otherwise available on Canadian cable broadcasting services, like Al-Jazeera, which received a license from the broadcasting regulator with conditions applied that all but guaranteed that no distributor would be able to reasonably carry the service.   Indeed, many of Canada’s mainstream media outlets – including the country’s largest newspaper – appeared to encourage VPN use by publishing the names of companies and services that permit its use and by suggesting that the company itself is not serious about cracking down on those working in grey zone. In the headier days when both countries currencies ran nearly at par, many living near the border rented U.S. post office boxes to avoid high shipping and customs rates.  This is to say nothing of the organized bus tours, shopping guides and special sales aimed at encouraging cross-border shopping.

shomi-800x410All of this attention is coming at a time when Netflix’s moment in Canada may be at its apex.  Over the last few months, competing streaming services have entered the market.  Two major telcos, Rogers and Shaw, have teamed up to offer Shomi, signing exclusive deals with U.S. specialty stations and services like Amazon Prime to make shows like Transparent available to its users.  In addition, Bell now offers CraveTV and its libraries of HBO and Showtime programs to its subscribers for an additional cost. Both services are currently restricted to the company’s respective cable subscribers and are offered as part of plea to stop customers from cutting the cords but one can easily imagine that both services will be widely available at some point in the future even for those who are already adrift (a recent announcement by the CRTC signals this may be coming sooner rather than later). As the competition gobbles up streaming rights for popular programs because of their ability to expose it across different platforms will Netflix be a less and less desirable option unless its original content continues to shine? It is difficult to imagine that the company will not be brought to heel by Canada’s broadcasting regulator at some point that may nudge subscription rates higher.

Will Netflix have the stomach to stick it out if that happens?  It certainly has consumers on their side, fed up with expensive cable packages, restrictive contracts and lousy customer service that have historically characterized the  Canadian television experience.  Its current partnership with Shomi for the show Between points to a possible way forward.  Rogers will have the rights to air the show in Canada on its City television stations and on its streaming service, while Netflix will get distribution rights outside of Canada for a year before being able to show the series on its Canadian platform. It will be interesting to see how this “Canada first” windowing method plays out.

In the future we may see this moment as one of those blips in time when large numbers of Canadians engaged in a form of audio-visual media consumption outside of the policy framework. When thinking about Netflix outside of the U.S. then the big question is not how smart the algorithms are but how its entry into new locales encourages a range of cultural practices that test the political and regulatory contours of nations before they are eventually put into place.  This settles things just long enough for people to find new ways to get around them.


What Are You Missing? Dec 30 – Jan 12 Sun, 12 Jan 2014 14:00:09 +0000 Happy New Year! Here are ten or more media industry news items you might have missed recently:

WWE Network1) WWE announced during CES this week the upcoming launch of WWE Network for February 24th, a first of its kind over-the-top 24/7 streaming channel with on-demand access to a vast library of content. The move comes after years of speculation as to the form the previously announced WWE Network would take, with WWE attempting deals with both cable and satellite providers for a more traditional system WWE Network will be accessible on nearly all digital platforms like Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Roku, Playstation, XBox, smart TVs, and more all through a single subscription fee of $9.99 a month with a six month commitment. The fact that the content (both new originals and archival) will include WWE’s monthly Pay-Per-Views at no additional cost has ruffled some traditional outlet’s feathers, as DirecTV has threatened to stop offering PPVs since the WWE Network will essentially compete against them. With WWE about to enter renegotiations with cable channels for airing rights to its television shows, the Network’s upcoming launch will certainly play a factor.

2) Following up on rumors of a deal for Time Warner Cable, John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp has said it plans to buyout SiriusXM, putting Malone in a clearer position in consolidation with Time Warner Cable due to Liberty’s controlling stake in competitor Charter Communications. It is a very complicated plan, involving the creation of a new class of stock for the company, but the bottom line is it makes for even more consolidation and puts Liberty in a better position to acquire Time Warner Cable through its Charter holdings. There are those who object, notably shareholder Ralph Nader, but Liberty defends the plan as leading to a more rational structure.

3) A big week for online television service Aereo, as the Supreme Court has announced it plans to hear the case between the startup and four major broadcasters. The case is an appeal made by CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and others after they were denied an injunction over whether Aereo’s system that captures their broadcast signals and reroutes them to customers Internet devices violates performance rights. This is a massive case, ABC Television Stations vs. Aereo for those playing at home, as the future of network television and its relationship to Internet platforms hangs in check. The news of the high court taking the case came just days after Aereo had closed on $34 million in additional financing, putting them at $97 million raised to date. How much that is really worth will be decided by the Supreme Court in their upcoming docket.

Springsteen-Good-Wife4) If you plan on watching CBS’s The Good Wife on Sunday night (and why wouldn’t you be!?), you can look forward to three songs from Bruce Springsteen’s upcoming new album High Hopes, part of a larger partnership between Springsteen and CBS to promote the upcoming album’s release. The albums is currently streaming on as a sneak preview, a move promoted after last week’s episode of The Good Wife. This is a rare move for a network to host an album debut on its website, something more traditional online and music retailers are sure to dislike.

5) Speaking of online music retailers, they have more bad news this year as 2013 marks the first time digital music sales have decreased. The drops come in the form of both individual track sales as well as album bundles, despite the latter starting the year strong. The main culprit being blamed is the increase in popularity of ad-based and subscription-based music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, though streaming numbers for 2013 have yet to be released.

6) Not to fear, as 2013 was also a year of massive rises in media company stocks. Most major media conglomerates closed out 2013 at 52-week highs, with Disney being a big winner with their stock gaining over 51% this past year. When you expand to look at the entire market, Netflix had an astonishing year growing 296%, placing it as the second-highest performing stock of 2013 behind only Tesla, the up-and-coming luxury electric car manufacturer. When it comes to films, Lionsgate did well off the back of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, rising 99.2%. For television, AMC did quite well closing 2013 up 34%.

7) Perhaps bolstered by its stock’s performance, Netflix raised the salary of CEO Reed Hastings by 50%, bringing it to $6 million for 2014. This is the man who just two years ago helped announce Qwikster, which almost signaled the end for the video-streaming service that is now outpacing every prediction.

8) The Parents Television Council is pushing for an overhaul of film and TV ratings, claiming the current system is inaccurate. PTC president Tim Winter criticized the systems by saying, “content ratings much be accurate, consistent, transparent and publicly accountable. The current system is none of that.” While the MPAA has yet to comment, industry-supporting organization TV Watch has pushed back, arguing the PTC uses flawed methodology and false claims to push their agenda.

Chinese multimillionaire Chen Guangbiao gives money away to street cleaners during an event organized by him in Nanjing9) Mostly because I wanted to include a picture of that suit, controversial Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao has intentions to buy the New York Times Co., what he deems the most influential news outlet in the world. Making millions in waste management, Chen claimed to have set up a meeting with the company, which is an odd choice since the NYT’s website is currently blocked in China. After this meeting was rebuffed, Chen admitted it would be a difficult acquisition, but insured others his intentions were genuine.

10) Staying with China the country has temporarily lifted a 14-year ban on video game consoles. The ban started in 2000 with the Chinese government claiming they were dangerous to one’s health. This opens the door for foreign console manufacturers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to begin manufacturing in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.


Rethinking Media Distribution Wed, 20 Nov 2013 15:00:21 +0000 Tryon pic

The news that the subscription service Netflix now has more total subscribers than premium cable channel HBO further confirms that media industries are changing rapidly, especially when it comes to the practices of movie and TV distribution. Beyond altering the economics of media distribution, subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu have introduced a whole new vocabulary for both media consumers and industry professionals alike. Activities such as binge watching and “Netflix adultery” were unimaginable just a few short years ago, while more traditional practices—such as the weekly trip to the video store—have practically disappeared. With those changes in mind, Jeff Ulin, a media distribution expert who has worked at Lucasfilm, Paramount, and Universal, has substantially revised his 2009 book, The Business of Media Distribution, for the era of digital delivery, providing a fascinating and engaging road map for both media scholars and industry professionals.

The new edition of the book starts by spelling out how studios and networks manage media properties in order to create value—through managing intellectual property rights, for example—before tracing several different modes of distribution: theatrical, home video, television, and internet. The final sections of the book focus on aspects such as marketing and promotion, especially as those practices have been transformed by the emergence of social media tools. Ulin also reiterates one of the key observations discussed in his first book: the idea that studios are best understood as “financing and distributing machines” that seek to maximize value, in large part by managing the distribution “windows” when movies or TV shows are available through a specific platform. Ulin emphasizes the process by which studios carefully balance when movies are available theatrically, through VOD platforms, on DVD, and eventually through subscription services such as Netflix, in order to maximize the value of a given text.

In his map of the film distribution landscape, Ulin traces several of the key factors that drove the adoption of digital projectors, most notably the role of 3D in serving as a means for justifying surcharges to consumers. But another major factor identified by Ulin is the role of China as a major marketplace for Hollywood theatrical films. Specifically, Ulin points out that the U.S. government negotiated a deal to raise the limit on the number of international films screened annually in China from 20 to 34, with the stipulation that the additional movies be screened in 3D. While Ulin is less explicit on this matter, the clear implication is that China’s theatrical market will likely shape the choices studios make when it comes to picking projects for the foreseeable future.

But the strength of Ulin’s book is his thorough explanation of the changes in the home video marketplace, especially as online video sources are poised to upset DVD rental and sales. As Ulin points out, the conflicts between physical or bricks-and-mortar retailers and online sources including Amazon are often more complex than they appear, especially given incentives such as using DVDs as “loss-leaders” to draw shoppers into big-box retailers such as Walmart and Target. More crucially, however, subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Hulu and transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) retailers such as Amazon and iTunes have upset traditional revenue streams and the distribution windows that were designed to provide various platforms (theaters, pay cable, basic cable) with periods of exclusivity that allowed studios and exhibitors to protect the value of the movie being distributed. These conflicts have played out in the ongoing debates over day-and-date distribution, especially for independent and low-budget movies, or shorter theatrical windows for studio films. But they also inform how TV shows circulate, especially when the interests of production companies and SVOD services such as Netflix compete with the interests of cable TV channels such as TNT and FX that are currently negotiating to extend their “broadcast window” to encompass the most recent season of a show, rather than just the five most recent episodes. Such battles are likely to persist in our current on-demand culture

One of the challenges that faces any book that focuses on the media distribution landscape is that it changes so rapidly. As I was reading Ulin’s book, Blockbuster Video announced that it would be closing its last 300 stores, resulting in the loss of over 3.000 jobs and leaving Redbox as, perhaps, the primary option for DVD rental for most US consumers. However, Ulin’s book remains relevant, in large part because he offers several key principles to describe the ongoing evolution of the media industries. With that in mind, we can read all of the recent changes—Netflix’s competition with HBO, Blockbuster’s closure of its U.S. stores, and China’s emergence as a crucial theatrical market—as part of a larger system in which studios and other media institutions use windows in order to generate and retain value for the films and television shows they distribute, no matter how we access them.


What Are You Missing? Oct 28 – Nov 10 Sun, 10 Nov 2013 14:00:55 +0000 Here are ten or more media industry news items you might have missed recently:

Twitter IPO1) We’re all going to be millionaires! Well, 1,600 of us are after Twitter’s IPO, which had been raised to $26 a share before going public Thursday, saw shares open at $45.10 on the NYSE before closing at $44.90. What’s that mean? Twitter raised as much as $2.1 billion ending with a market capitalization of $25 billion. The big numbers have raised eyebrows as to what might be the next big Internet company to jump to the exchange. Others, however, saw the IPO as a failure, though this Forbes column is well over 140 characters, so who has the time to read it, am I right?

2) Like all things in Congress, it took longer than it should have, but the Senate has officially confirmed Tom Wheeler as the new FCC chairman. Wheeler was unanimously voted in after the confirmation was held up by  (who else?) Ted Cruz, who put a hold on the nomination two weeks ago. Wheeler didn’t waste time holding his first staff meeting in which he called for a “nimble” department, referring to the FCC as an “optimism agency” that promoted competition, innovation, and consumer protection.

3) Wheeler’s FCC might see a possible merger come across their doorstep sooner rather than later. After it was revealed Time Warner Cable was hurting more than it let on after its summer battle with CBS resulting in losing 306,000 television subscribers, news emerged that Charter Communications was weighing a bid for the cable provider. Though the initial talks began near the beginning of this year, recent troubles see Time Warner Cable being more open to the deal, spearheaded by John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp, partial owners of Charter. This may be best for everyone, as Time Warner Cable’s stock spiked considerably after the news broke.

4) A story involving California, a politician, the entertainment industry, and bribes… stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A report from Al-Jazeera America revealed California state Senator Ronald Calderon accepted bribes as part of an undercover FBI sting, just one of many claims to Calderon’s corruption. Calderon was one of the primary champions of a recent local film production incentive program and the chair of the Senate Select Committee on California’s Film and Television industries. After the report, Calderon was removed from that committee. The affidavit reveals FBI agents posed as executives from a fictitious studio offering a bribe of $60,000 in exchange for the industry friendly tax break program. I can’t wait to see the movie based on this! Call Ben Affleck.

Defenders-482x2765) Marvel and Netflix have come to terms on what both are calling an “unprecedented deal” that will see Marvel Television develop four original live-action series for the streaming service followed by a miniseries featuring the four characters from each. Focusing on more ‘street-level’ heroes Daredevil (recently reacquired from Fox), Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist, the deal includes a commitment of four 13-episode series plus the culminating “Defenders” miniseries, taking a similar narrative approach to the Avengers team-up.

6) Turning to international news, Italy might be planning to privatize it’s state-run broadcaster RAI after losing more than $250 million last year. The move would be in line with the country’s recent steps to reduce its debt (second in the EU only to Greece) without further raising taxes. While the idea of privatizing has been brought up multiple times before, the larger fears for the country seem to indicate these talks are more serious and possibly more likely to come to fruition.

7) A new Royal Charter being discussed in the U.K.’s Parliament with new press regulations faced threats of injunction from the country’s The Newspaper Society. This attempt failed, however, and the Royal Charter made its way to Her Majesty, the Queen for final approval. The Charter is an attempt to create a more powerful watchdog group to hold accountable those publications that break rules and regulations.

8) In an effort to build upon the importance of the Chinese market and co-productions, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer announced plans to open a film office in Beijing to act as a local “base of operations.” The MPAA supported the announcement, expressing excitement over the tighter connection with the bustling market and the door to more co-productions.

9) If you are at all interested in media industry news, the name Nikki Finke is assuredly familiar to you. The founder and editor-in-chief of Deadline Hollywood will be leaving the site, now owned by Penske Media Corp. There have been rumblings about Finke’s displeasure and desire to leave for months, with her departure coming before the end of her current contract through 2016, thus resulting in her leaving substantial money on the table.

Blockbuster-is-Gone10) It’s the end of an era, as Blockbuster has announced it will close its remaining 300 vide0-rental stores. Now owned by Dish Network, Blockbuster will also stop its DVD-by-mail business and instead be primarily focused on its Video-On-Demand service Blockbuster@Home. As it is wont to do, The A.V. Club perhaps summarizes the story best with the simple headline “Blockbuster Video closing all the stores it still apparently had.”


Making Television in the 21st Century Conference Report Mon, 28 Oct 2013 13:23:58 +0000 Making TVFresh insights and global perspectives dominated the Making Television in the 21st Century Conference held in Aarhus University, Denmark from October 24-26. The common thread uniting the wide-ranging talks was the pursuit to provide updated models and methods to make sense of the evolving medium.

In the inaugural keynote, John T. Caldwell (UCLA) presented an analysis of the complex media labor system, and its financial environment, based on a three-part model regime: the “Craft-World,” the “Brand-World,” and the “Spec-World.” In the “Craft-World” the aesthetic goal is to create a durable artifact, while in the “Brand-World,”  flexible reformatting and concept-iteration are fundamental. The “Spec-World”, in contrast, seems to be more disaggregated. It is based on a sharing culture and tends to offer virtual pay systems.

However, these three regimes are not detached, as they form a connected “para-industrial buffer” that scholars and producers must conciliate. For example, there is a “Corporate Spec-World” that deals with brand reformatting from a speculative point of view. Moreover, Caldwell suggested that, in the actual context, all media products seem to function as a television pilot, a prototype opened to speculation and replication. Disney is a good example of this idea. As Caldwell observed, with the ABC series Once Upon a Time, the company has found a new mode to recreate its own brand. This process becomes more evident in episodes in which we can see real actors re-enacting scenes from classic Disney animated movies.

The conference also offered space for interesting ideas about Netflix and Amazon as new operators in the television industry. Sarah Arnold, from Falmouth University, posed the provocative question: “Is Netflix really television?” The diffusion method used by the streaming platform, promoting the binge viewing of its new series, makes Arnold question the televisual aspect of the streaming platform. Can we talk about television without a regular and scheduled content?

In the same panel, Jakob Isak Nielsen, from Aarhus University, added that one challenge that Netflix must face is to find a specific target group for its new content, as premium cable networks mostly do. Besides, the company must deal with the difficult situation of dealing with other television networks to offer their content on streaming and, at the same time, be one of its competitors. According to Nielsen, the future of Netflix happens to be less dependent on licensing material.

While most discussions about quality TV or the Golden Age of TV are rooted in US programming, this conference fittingly examined the recent international appeal and acclaim of Danish series such as Borgen, The Killing, and The Bridge, the latter of which is a co-production with Sweden. Heidi Philipsen of The University of Southern Denmark and Tobias Hochscherf of The University of Applied Sciences Kiel presented “Television Dogmas of Creativity? The Cross-Fertilisation of Film and Television as a Prerequisite for Danish Television’s Recent Success,” detailing a new partnership and subsequent production culture, “television dogmas for production” that was influenced by the 1990s-era Dogma film movement. The key principles include double storytelling, crossover between film and TV for a “cinematic touch,” and the significance of the writers, who hold the final say.

Within this dogma, the National Film School that is behind the development incorporates predefined themes, actors, teams and genres. Within the industry, the reputable public service broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) provides easy national financing for the creators, allowing room for innovation and stating that “failure is OK,” if not often necessary, for the creative process. As Philpsen and Hochscherf have interviewed these practitioners and will soon observe onsite filming, they informed that the conditions include 20 weeks of development and 20 weeks to shoot 24 episodes. In a conversation with Caldwell, the three agreed that these modes are not unique to Denmark, but quite similar to US schedules. A version of this paper will be included in the forthcoming Danish TV dossier in the Journal of Popular Television.

In the same Danish Drama TV panel, Lynge Agger Gemzøe described the national identities associated with the Swedish-Danish production of The Bridge and later compared the original with the US adaptation on FX. A French-British version called The Tunnel has also recently been released.

Afterwards, Pia Majbritt Jensen and Anne Marit Waade dissected the pros and cons of external funding for Danish programming. While outside sources can provide an abundance of money, Danish creative control can be weakened. Likewise, public service to the nation’s audience can also be replaced for international appeal to sell series abroad. In a separate panel, Hanne Bruun described the flux of Danish broadcast journalism, highlighting the tensions between the people, media and state and providing non-Danes a context to understand future plots in the politics of Borgen, a series very specific to the country’s government, with clear universal appeal, that has been broadcast in 60 countries.

In addition to Danish programming, numerous quality papers were given on British, German, Italian, Scandinavian, and Spanish and television industry and production practices.

In the last keynote panel of the conference, questions about the next challenges of television production were posed from a European perspective. Lothar Mikos, Professor of Television Studies, Academy of Film and Television “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam, Germany, suggested a system of transnational co-productions as a real possibility to create and finance large scale television series to compete with the US. The European film industry, as Mikos reminded us, is a good example of this kind of cooperation between different countries and agents. Additionally, the emergence of Netflix offers a new alternative of partnership for European television channels following the case of Lillyhammer, a Norwegian-American production. However, every country is different and Denmark, as was proved along the entire conference, has found its own receipt for success adapting the American television system based on the crucial figure of the showrunner.

In conclusion, the conference celebrated risk and transgression as a main goal for television production in this 21st century. “Audience demands originality”, declared Lotte Lindegaard, head of TV2 Denmark.
AntennaCinemaJournalJune This post is part of an ongoing partnership between the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Antenna: Responses to Media & Culture and the Society for Cinema & Media Studies’ Cinema Journal.