Say hello to Studio+, a premium ‘Netflix for mobile’ that wants to tackle American content dominance

Executive editors Natan Edelsburg (@twatan) and Adam Flomenbaum (@flobombin), and guest contributors, bring the inside track on the latest developments in the TV space.

Angela Natividad's been writing about advertising, tech and pop culture for over ten years, and is the former international account director of entertainment agency Darewin. She's since founded Hurrah.fr, the premier creative agency dedicated to bringing mainstream brands into esports. Lurk all over her tweets @luckthelady.

Here’s a fun fact: Vivendi started as a water company. 163 years later, it’s looking to win the throne back for Europe and LatAm in the entertainment big leagues: mobile.

At MIPTV in Cannes last week, Global Managing Director of Havas Media Group and Vivendi Content president, Dominique Delport, revealed the upcoming launch of Studio+, the first-ever mobile-only premium content studio.

Studio+ will produce series for smartphones and tablets, and will launch in Europe and Latin America around September. Before year’s end, various telecoms will carry the app. By 2017, Delport hopes the service will be global.

What’s perhaps most interesting is how Delport positioned and sold Studio+ to MIP attendees, which includes TV professionals from all over the world. In fact, he warmed up by observing that of the world’s top 20 internet companies, 11 are American and nine are Asian.

We can narrow that down still more: Users spend 50% of their digital time with what he calls GAFA—Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, which represent $1.5 trillion in market capitalization. “Europe has been completely disrupted by the internet,” Delport said. “Same for LatAm, the Middle East, and Africa.”

For Delport, this represents a strategic need to support and promote European and Latin content platforms (the Middle East and Africa will just have to go it on their own): “We want to be part of that playground. This is important for Europe, for diversity, cultural relevancy.”

This soft power thinking was also the reasoning behind Universal and Havas’ Global Music Data Alliance, created “to extract more value from fans, artists and labels,” not to mention Vivendi’s acquisition of Dailymotion. So this parry has been in the works for awhile. The next—and last—piece of the puzzle is mobile.

“I can live without a TV, I can’t live without my mobile. Mobile is already the first screen,” said Delport, who also believes that TV networks may soon be replaced by apps. “Premium short entertainment content is a big opportunity to create value on mobile networks.”

That’s where Studio+ comes in, like kryptonite to GAFA’s Superman: “The focus is on European sensibilities and Latin culture,” Delport said. “60 series are currently in development, and 25 have been produced in over 18 shooting locations.”

Studio+ will go live in six languages—Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, English and Russian—with 25 short-format original series of five to 10 minutes each. A new series will launch every week, including one developed in partnership with Snapchat: Deep Diving, the first-ever premium mobile show shot in vertical video with immersive audio technology. Each series cost $1 million each, which Delport considers a bare minimum for premium content.

In general, European or LatAm partners will be prioritized: Dailymotion will be the vehicle for trailers and teasers, and Universal Music Group will handle soundtracks.

But while production and promotion remain “in the family,” Studio+ will aggressively prioritize expansion in places like the aforementioned Middle East and Africa. Delport also expressed interest in scoring a US-based partner before year’s end.

“We want to be sure that Europe and the Latin culture develops its own (entertainment) culture,” he concluded. “This isn’t just about entertainment; it’s about culture, it’s about education.”

It merits saying that LatAm, and even the Middle East and Africa—somewhat ignored in this cultural game of thrones, except as more screens to fill—actually do have rich and clearly-defined entertainment cultures. LatAm’s music and telenovela business are formidable enterprises, and we only see a tip of that iceberg when a show like "Jane the Virgin," a remake of a Venezuelan telenovela, becomes a mainstream hit. A service called Afrostream is dedicated entirely to disseminating great African content, and the Middle East’s soap operas are increasingly licensed all over the world. Turkey was dubbed “the new Israel” in terms of awesome TV at MIPCOM just last year.

What Delport’s getting to is, who’ll get to define the standard for global entertainment in the future? At one time, Europe was a massive cultural influence on other parts of the world. Things have changed. As Thomas Jefferson once said—paraphrased by culture journalist Frédéric Martel in his book Mainstream—“Europeans have two cultures: That of their own country, and American culture.” This is partly because the countries that compose Europe are so different that they can’t fully agree on what European culture should represent; what they can agree on, though, is liking "Friends" (and "NCIS," in the curious case of Germany).

But if Studio+ proves a hit, Delport hopes this will change. Vivendi reviewed 750 projects in nine months before settling on what they wanted to produce; they’re investing for the long haul. And maybe they’ll start to chip at the dominance of players like the so-called GAFA and Netflix, one gorgeous vertically-shot five-minute mobile clip at a time.

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