It’s a great time to be a Canadian or British entertainment company. With the dual SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes showing no signs of resolution, everyone from Netflix to The CW is anxiously looking to fill gaps in their content calendars, with a potential programming black hole appearing in spring 2024. This anxiety has made internationally-produced scripted and unscripted series—which are not affected by work stoppages—exceptionally attractive, not only as a driver of customer engagement, but also as a way to keep their respective platforms and channels feeling fresh.
This workaround seems logical, and a potential life boat during a once-in-a-generation dual strike. It’s also reflective of larger abiding trends in the industry. Looking at Netflix’s original scripted titles debuting in September, it appears less than 20 percent are U.S.-based productions, as spotted by All Your Screens. (This isn’t a perfect example since so much English-language content is produced on foreign soil. But it’s still a fascinating illustrative example.) Additional data from Whip Media shows that just under 40 percent of “new Netflix shows in development are in a language other than English,” according to Hollywood Reporter. Whip Media also found that the share of non-U.S. content circulating via U.S. distributors doubled between 2018 and 2021 (8 percent to more than 16 percent respectively).
In fact, the growing share of foreign content may preview whether the streamers’ current workaround will work. And the data is… interesting. According to current viewing habits, leaning on foreign content is essentially a gamble.