Monday, October 16, 2006

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Maudissez cette culture américaine séduisant!

In the International Heald-Tribune, Eric Pfanner reports that despite rising anti-Americanism in Europe, American television has actually become more popular, not less:

In the Parliaments and pubs of Europe, the United States may wallow in least-favored-nation status. But on European television, American shows have not been as popular since the 1980s heyday of "Dallas," "Dynasty" and "The Dukes of Hazzard."

"What a difference," said Gerhard Zeiler, chief executive of RTL Group, the Luxembourg-based broadcaster that owns Five US and other channels across Europe. "Five or six years ago you could barely find any U.S. series on the prime-time schedules of the market leaders. Now they are back, pretty much on all the major European commercial channels."

RTL, which is owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, recently created an all-American Tuesday night lineup at its flagship channel in Germany, the biggest commercial broadcaster in that country. It starts with "CSI: Miami," the latest installment in the "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" franchise, which airs on the CBS network in the United States, and continues with "House," "Monk" and "Law & Order."....

U.S. producers are taking more risks, creating edgier shows, analysts say, and they are spending more on them in an effort to appeal to audiences in Europe, where American programming is often dubbed into the local language. With revenue from sales of U.S. rights flat, they are also increasingly dependent on international sales to recover the costs.

Meanwhile, European programming budgets are getting squeezed. Advertising revenue at many of the leading channels is stagnant or falling as viewers defect to the Internet and other new media. Yet broadcasters have to fill many more hours of air time as cable, satellite and digital terrestrial channels proliferate. Buying the rights to American shows is much less expensive than producing original ones....

Nick Thorogood, controller of Five US, said British viewers were setting aside any anti-American leanings when they settled down in front of their TVs.

"We are seeing bright, intelligent and beautifully made drama coming out of America," he said. "In the U.K., many people abhor the politics of the U.S. but eagerly embrace the culture."

In other parts of Europe, the embrace may not be as hearty.

The largest broadcaster in France, TF1, added Disney's "Lost" series to its Saturday night lineup last year. Last month it went further, dropping the feature films that it had shown for years on Sunday nights in favor of three episodes of "CSI," lifting its ratings but prompting a backlash from French producers, who are supported with public funding....

In any case, analysts say, American shows again command the kind of universal appeal they last held when a fictional Texas oilman named J.R. Ewing swaggered across European television screens, helping shape stereotypes of America.

"The world and the U.K. were watching when J.R. was shot on 'Dallas,'" Thorogood said.

"Now that kind of thing could happen again."

It would appear that American television producers have pulled off the same feat as other American multinationals -- marketing their wares to anti-American publics.

My favorite quote from the story: "As recently as 1999, Zeiler said, the only American fare shown during prime time on RTL in Germany was reruns of 'Quincy.'"

posted by Dan on 10.16.06 at 08:53 AM


I'd like someone to define the word "edgy" for me.

I've heard it applied to television shows ranging from the ostentatiously self-conscious (Ally McBeal, Sex and the City) to those revolving around sex crimes, exotic diseases and dismembered corpses (CSI, House, Law and Order: SVU), phenomena well removed from the experience of most viewers in America and (one assumes) in Europe as well.

The West Wing was rarely described as edgy, though its subject matter fell well outside the LCDS (lawyer, cop, doctor, soap) categories that dominate television drama. Star Trek in its later iterations was never described as edgy, but the current incarnation of Battlestar Galactica -- distinguished to my mind mostly by its weirdness and the frequency with which its characters suffer emotional breakdowns -- is. Miami Vice was edgy, then was campy and is now nostalgic.

So does "edgy" simply mean fashionable? Fashionable within the entertainment industry? Fashionable with the entertainment industry upon ratification, at least for a season or so, by the viewing public? Or something else?

posted by: Zathras on 10.16.06 at 08:53 AM [permalink]

The belief that europeans who disagree with the US's foreign will somehow reject all other american products is highly dubious to say the least.

As far as the UK is concerned the notion that US telly programs are making a comeback based on the fact that the weakest of the 5 terrisital channels (Channel 5) is launching a digital channel devoted to US shows is pretty farfetched.

5 is the smallest and poorest of the UK's terr channels with only 5% of the market. Much of its programming is already sourced from the US because it's very very cheap to do so and it doesn't face any competition for most of the US content from any of the other major channels.(4 occassionaly picks up some of the best US shows (lost,soprano's etc)).

One of the main problems for US companies trying to sell their programs to the UK is the sheer no of ads the US has. At the moment I understand the average amount of ads per hour on US telly is around 15-16 mins. Which would mean an american hour long program becomes a 50 min program on the commercial channels and a 44 min program on the BBC.

posted by: kenny on 10.16.06 at 08:53 AM [permalink]

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