CEE Remains Among the Biggest Markets for ZDF studios
BY Stanislav Kimchev
Mirela Nastase, Director of Drama at ZDF Studios, is also excited about the return to in-person meetings at NATPE Budapest International. She will be presenting three new major premieres to CEE clients which are among the biggest buyers of content from ZDF Studios.
Mirela Nastase, Director of Drama at ZDF Studios
Mirela, you are the Director of Drama at ZDF Studios, responsible for the sales and acquisitions of drama in French-speaking and CEE territories. What are the latest trends in the genre in our region?
On linear television, the preference for crime, historical drama, and romance continues to be popular. Not only that, but what is being consumed in the CEE region is rather in line with the rest of the world. However, VOD now allows a wider variety of specialized channels to target specific viewership, opening more opportunities to diversify the genres at increasing volumes. And a rather important aspect to look at next is the impact of the Ukraine crisis on programming, drama produced or acquired, and an increase in co-productions in CEE.

NATPE Budapest International is back after the covid pause. What are the main highlights that you are bringing to the Hungarian capital?
We have some spectacular event programs to announce. For example, the RTVE Spain and Amazon period miniseries Boundless, directed by Simon West (producer of Oscar-nominated Black Hawk Down) and starring Álvaro Morte(Casa de Papel) and Rodrigo Santoro (Westworld).
The Swarm, the environmental thriller series based on the Frank Schätzing best-seller, is another major coproduction that will be available in 2023. Cécile de France (The New Pope), Sharon Duncan-Brewster (Sex Education), Takuya Kimura (2046), Lydia Wilson (Flack), and German star Barbara Sukowa (Hannah Arendt) are among the ensemble cast. Produced by Frank Doelger (Game of Thrones) ZDF Studios and Beta Films joint venture Intaglio, the series is finishing up postproduction and will head to a large number of European and international channels and platforms. We are actively looking for pre-sales in CEE.

Currently shooting are the much-anticipated RTE Ireland original crime drama Clean Sweep starring Charlene McKenna (Peaky Blinders, Vienna Blood), Season 2 of RTVE, Amazon Spain’s suspense anthology series Stories to Stay Awake, and season 4 of the highly successful France 2–ZDF coproduction The Crimson Rivers.

What have been some of ZDF Studios’ latest deals in CEE?
CEE is consistently third in terms of sales and revenues for ZDF Studios, trailing only to German-speaking, Italian, and Spanish markets. We closed a substantial number of licensing, volume deals, and most recently, format deals. The latest adaptation by TV Nova in the Czech Republic, after the success of Soko Leipzig, is the ZDF procedural A Case of Murder. We will continue our volume deal with TV2 in Hungary, renew one with Nova TV in Bulgaria and create a brand new one with Croatian Nova TV. We are grateful for our strong partnership with all Baltics channels, including TV3 Latvia and Lithuania, LNK Lithuania, which recently purchased the Swedish and German crime TV series Huss, LRT Lithuania, which chose to acquire Hjerson, Between Two Worlds, and a cult German procedural, and LTV, which has a large selection of romantic TV movies and family TV series. Kanal 2 and ETV in Estonia have also made their first selections for the year. We are across all windows, including Pay TV and SVOD in most territories as well, with Netflix relicensing The Fall, Epic Drama licensing Hjerson, and CDA Polska, NENT Poland, and Baltics various titles.

Are you working on new projects in the region? Any productions or co-productions in development?
Regarding sales, we look to develop further in the Balkans region; while we work with all the channels in Croatia and Slovenia, we don’t with the rest of the territories, which we are looking to pursue. And when it comes to projects and co-productions, we are actively looking for the next series from CEE to distribute and are in discussions for co-productions. Being at NEM Dubrovnik and NATPE Budapest will allow us to meet producers in person for potential future collaborations in the region.

How has the war in Ukraine affected your business in CEE?
As of now, we have not seen a direct impact on the CEE market. ZDF Studios and many others in the industry continue with initiatives to support Ukraine, which is a true testament of what solidarity can accomplish. ZDFneo will broadcast in primetime this June the Ukrainian series Hide and Seek, which has been in our catalog since 2019, and ZDFmediathek will stream the series for 30 days and provide it in its original language.

Moreover, we are being asked for the Ukrainian language to be added in various territories which are now home to Ukrainian refugees, and we provide our content free of charge to various Ukrainian channels. We also look to continue our partnership with Ukrainian studios to support the stories coming from them and their film and TV industry. These are only a few ways we can continue to support our Ukrainian partners during these unprecedented times.
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