Anthony Kimble, co-CEO of UK- and US-based production and financing company Arrested Industries (formerly Fugitive), explores how the pandemic has led to a big demand for non-US drama in the States, as well as a waning appetite for local scripted content.

As a Brit who’s recently set up a business in LA, there’s a lot that I’m still coming to terms with, not least my regular commute on the 405 to attend meetings. I liken the drive to the track in Mad Max: Fury Road: it’s fast, exhilarating, deeply competitive and you need to keep your wits about you to make it to your destination in one piece. It all feels so gladiatorial – but it probably sets me up nicely for the day job developing and funding drama projects and then pitching them to broadcasters and streamers.

I have always loved spending time in America and working with Americans, but even as a Brit sharing a common language, ‘breaking through’ with non-US scripted projects has long been a battle. For many years, commissions or co-productions were rare, while only the very best British costume dramas and quirky detective series were acquired with any regularity. Apparently, our accents were an issue and, as I’ve been told, “US viewers had no interest in gritty stories set in rainswept cities in the north of England”.

Now, however, the tide has turned and there’s never been more opportunity stateside for not only British drama but also international shows. And we have the pandemic to thank for opening the floodgates. As we know, during lockdown viewers turned increasingly to streamers, but in doing so they also found more time to experiment, with many in the US viewing international Netflix Originals, such as French series Lupin and Spain’s Money Heist or other titles such as German series Deutschland ’83 for the first time. Add to that the huge wave of innovative content coming out of territories like Korea – with dramas like Netflix’s Squid Game and Apple’s Pachinko – and drama executives here would soon go from hero to zero if they didn’t now consider international stories when looking for their next big hit.

We are having a ‘perfect storm’ moment. Viewer engagement is up in the US and cultural barriers are down, output deals are disappearing and there’s dwindling local supply in the marketplace as studios are keeping content for their own platforms. In line with this, international broadcasters are also buying less US content as their increasingly robust local production sectors now create standout content that can also find audiences overseas…

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