2017 US Shows that are making it big in Europe

The 2018 U.S. “Up-Front” selling season has completed its primary push for worldwide sales of the debuting product. Essential Television Statistics thought it would be an interesting exercise to analyse the U.S. network releases from the 2017 season (which started their domestic runs in the autumn of 2017) and see which shows were scheduled most on European stations. This review looks at transmissions up until July 2018 across 20 countries for free-to-air stations with a significant audience share.
Generally, stations tend to prioritise live action and procedural series in prime-time, with a comedy occasionally sprinkled in.

The table below lists the programs that were scheduled in prime time by the most number of countries across Europe.

TitleNumber CountriesCountries/Channels Playing Title in Prime Time
Good Doctor7Belgium (VIM), Hungary (RTL Klub), Netherlands (RTL4), Norway (TV2), Poland (TVP2), Spain (TeleS), Sweden (TV3)
Taken6Belgium (La Deux), Denmark (TV3+), Germany (RTL Nitro), Norway (TV3), Poland (TVN7), Sweden (TV6)
Gone6Belgium (La Deux), Denmark (TV3), France (TF1), Germany (VOX), Netherlands (NETS), Sweden (TV3)
The Mick5Austria (ORF1), France (6TER), Germany (ProSieben), Norway (TV3), Sweden (TV6)
SWAT5Denmark (TV3), Italy (RAI 2), Netherlands (Veronica), Norway (Viasat4), Poland (TVP1)
Blacklist Redemption5Belgium (RTL-TVI), Czech Rep (Prima Cool), Netherlands (RTL5), Norway (TV3), Sweden (TV8)
Big Little Lies4Austria (ORF1), Belgium (Canvas), Germany (VOX), Switzerland (RTS Un, RTS Deux)
Imposters4Croatia (HTV2), Germany (VOX), Poland (TVN), Sweden (TV3)
Young Sheldon4Austria (ORF1), Germany (ProSieben), Ireland (RTES), UK (E4)
Handmaid’s Tale4Ireland (RTE2), Spain (Antena 3), Sweden (SVT1), UK (Channel 4)

While the list of programs includes everything from comedy to hard-hitting action, there is a familiarity about the listed programs. “Taken” is a spin-off of the feature film by the same name; Chris Noth, who played one of the original detectives on “Law and Order”, headlines the procedural “Gone” about a team of investigators who track down people who have disappeared. Programs like “SWAT”, “Blacklist Redemption” and “Young Sheldon” are reboots and spin-offs of prior successful programs.

Feature film talent can also play a crucial role for popular programs that run worldwide. Freddie Highmore from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Finding Neverland” fame, headlines “The Good Doctor”. Female movie actresses Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are both Executive Producers and stars of the show “Big Little Lies” which aired in the U.S. on HBO. Incidentally, Iain Armitage who portrays “Young Sheldon”, also starred in “Big Little Lies”.

Program buyers see a great deal of content in a very concentrated period of time. Attributes such as a proven production team, a known title, popular talent, etc. can give a show an edge. Program buyers look for that special something that indicates that the program in which they are investing will be sampled and embraced by their viewers.

To give some perspective, looking at the programs that debuted in 2016, one that stood out was “Lethal Weapon”, a beloved feature film franchise that promised action, handsome buddy leads, and humour. With two years on air and a third season pick-up, the program is currently playing in 17 European countries in prime time, including 4 of 5 of the biggest markets – France on TF1, Germany on Sat1, Italy on Italia1, and UK on ITV1. We should mention that “Lethal Weapon” will see a major cast change with star Clayne Crawford being replaced by Seann William Scott.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the program that a channel manager has acquired is going to be the next “NCIS” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” In fact, of the programs highlighted for 2017, “The Mick”, “Imposters”, “Taken” and “Blacklist Redemption” have not been renewed, though “Taken” is looking for a new U.S. home.

Overall, many major European channels are still very reliant on U.S. productions for prime-time programming. The early adopters of new season shows tend to be from Northern Europe as opposed to Southern and Eastern Europe.

With the 2018 season launching shortly in the U.S., our first thoughts on potential import series that might have that necessary edge are as follows:

“Magnum PI” …for obvious reasons. This is a re-boot of the original, including plenty of action as well as enticing scenery, beaches and blue ocean…just the remedy for a cold night in Northern Europe.

“Station 19” a spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy” that is set at a firehouse just a few blocks from Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital. The series debuted in the U.S. in the spring featuring an attractive cast of male and female firefighters with plenty of action and heart.

“9-1-1”, the Fox produced program also debuted in the U.S. in the spring starring an ensemble cast including Angela Bassett and Peter Krause. From the calm 9-1-1 operators to the police and fire personnel who physically answer the call for help, the program is a mixture of action, humour and real-life situations.

“The Rookie” starring the affable Nathan Fillion, is based on a true story about a 40-year-old man who becomes the oldest rookie in the Los Angeles Police Department.

“New Amsterdam” is the oldest public hospital in the U.S. Dr. Max Goodwin (played by “Blacklist Alumni Ryan Eggold) is the new medical director who is ripping up the bureaucracy book and concentrating on care for all patients.

This analysis is based on all transmissions of shows which aired their first run in the U.S. in 2017 and was created from scheduled transmissions for stations with significant audiences in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Rep, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. Prime is defined as a programme starting between 17:00 and 23:00.

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