Americans are consuming more foreign content than ever

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Americans are consuming more foreign content than ever

Content from abroad is boosting its share of the American entertainment diet, thanks in large part to streaming, the pandemic and the creator economy.

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Content from abroad is boosting its share of the American entertainment diet, thanks in large part to streaming, the pandemic and the creator economy.

Why it matters:  “As ‘American exceptionalism’ has become less of a truth geopolitically, the same goes for entertainment,” says Brad Grossman, founder and CEO of ZEITGUIDE.

Driving the news: The U.S. demand share for non-U.S. content was higher each quarter in 2020 than in the previous two years, according to data provided to Axios from Parrot Analytics, which measures demand for entertainment content

  • “This trend started in mid 2019, so it pre-dates COVID-19, but the strong upward trend has continued into 2020,” says Wade Payson-Denney, an insights analyst at Parrot.
  • In Q3 2020, non-U.S. shows accounted for nearly 30% of demand in the U.S.
  • The data shows that U.S. audiences are discovering content from previously unfamiliar markets, like India, Spain and Turkey.

The top 5 international markets in the U.S. by Q4 2020 were the U.K. (8.3%), Japan (5.7%), Canada (3.2%), Korea (1.9%), and India (1.5%), per Parrot.

  • Demand for Indian shows stands out. Indian series went from having an almost negligible demand share in Q1 2018 (0.3%) to the 5th largest country at the end of 2020 (1.5% share). “Naagin,” an Indian fantasy thriller series, was the top Indian show in the U.S. last year, with 16.7x the average demand.

Netflix has been a large catalyst for what Grossman calls “cultural diffusion,” or the globalization of content across borders. Before Netflix’s streaming dominance, studios often bought up rights to a foreign film or series so they could recreate it in an Americanized version.

  • Netflix has had to look abroad for growth as the U.S. becomes more saturated. Its investments in international content have influenced the entire industry.
  • “International gating has become rare,” says Rex Sorgatz, a media consultant.

Be smart: The pandemic has put more pressure on streamers to feed antsy audiences in lockdown, especially those craving travel. With production limited or halted in some cases, TV networks and streamers looked to foreign content to deliver to U.S. audiences.

  • Netflix’s Spanish series “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel” in Spanish) was one of the most in-demand series globally last year, including in the U.S.
  • Other shows like French TV dramas “Call my Agent!” and “Lupin” on Netflix and “The Bureau” on A

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