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HBO Europe to make Scandi originals

Scripted-logo-460_2HBO Europe will soon make an original scripted series from Scandinavia, delegates here at the Berlin International Film Festival heard today.

antony_root_1Anthony Root, executive VP of original programming and production at the European arm of US premium cabler HBO, said the plan was at a “very, very early stage”, but that it made sense given that the Nordic region had given birth to “some of the most exceptional programmes of the last ten years”.

The moves comes after HBO consolidated its Scandinavian business, which operates the HBO Nordic OTT service, and central and eastern Europe channel pay TV operation, which has been creating scripted programming since 2013.

That development also saw HBO Nordic CEO Herve Payan taking control of the enlarged group, with HBO Europe chief executive Linda Jensen exiting at the same time.

“I can confirm we are planning to expand our HBO Europe original programming footprint to include the countries in Scandinavia covered by HBO Nordic,” Root (left) told TBI in Germany at the festival.

“We are at the earliest stage in this process, recruiting locally and thinking about the kinds of projects that would be right for us in a very sophisticated and mature TV environment. Whatever we finally decide to produce will be something we believe will speak to local audiences with a distinctive local voice. We have found this to be a successful approach to original programming in our other HBO Europe territories.”

Marcus_Ammon_klElsewhere in the European Film Market’s Drama Series Day panel session Sky Deutschland’s senior VP, programming, Marcus Ammon (right), said that the German pay TV operator would also be moving further into original scripted series.

Consolidation had also played a large part in this, with Sky’s operations in Germany, Italy and the UK merging to create Europe’s largest content-buying business.

“We are asking, ‘what can be done on a European level, and what are the themes that are relevant in these territories?’,” said Ammon.

Local originals such as the upcoming ARD coproduction Babylon Berlin would also increase, with Sky interested in projects that can make “noise” with German consumers.

Ammon revealed Babylon Berlin had a budget of around €2.5 million (US$2.8 million) per episode, and added that while it was “very unusual for a public broadcaster and a pay TV operator to come together”, neither could have financed the show alone.

“A German show of this scope has never been produced before,” he said. “We don’t know if we will make our money back, but we are convinced it is the right way to do it.”

Despite working with a pubcaster on the show, Ammon told producers in the audience the general Sky policy was different. “What we say to writers and producers is if you cannot imagine the show on ZDF at 8.15pm then let’s start talking.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment’s senior VP, international TV production, Diego Suarez, meanwhile, described streaming service Netflix’s efforts in original scripted programmes in Europe was “a real threat to pay TV operators”, and added Sony was “very happy to provide” content for all players.

Sony-owned UK prodco Left Bank Pictures is currently creating £100 million royal drama The Queen in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Suarez joined Sony from Fox21 Television Studios, where he was SVP, creative affairs until last year.