TV production is growing in Italy, where US streamers are gradually increasing their investment levels just as pubcaster RAI, which remains the industry’s main driver, is cutting spending.
According to the local association of television producers APA, the Italian market will generate in 2022 more than 1.2 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) of scripted content, which will lead to double-digit growth. Exports of the country’s high-end shows, such as “My Brilliant Friend,” now in its third season, and the upcoming spaghetti western saga “Django,” are also gaining popularity.
But although demand is increasing, the situation for Italian producers is not all rosy.
While pubcaster RAI remains Italy’s main content engine, its 2022 budget has been slashed from $33 million to $176 million. This is the second year of cuts as it tries to recover from declining advertising and COVID-related tax revenue.
Like many of his cohort, producer Rosario Rinaldo, head of television production company Cross Prods. (belonging to the German Beta Film), deplores the limited resources of the broadcaster.
Rinaldo has seen the budget for his crime show “Brennero” cut.
“RAI remains crucial for us as they represent an alternative business model to streamers,” says Rinaldo. But at the moment it’s really difficult to work with the broadcaster, he laments.
RAI could not be reached for comment.
Netflix, Amazon and Disney spent a combined total of around $152 million on Italian scripted content in 2021. They are now expected to nearly double their investments in Italian originals to at least $292 million in total by 2023, thus becoming the main drivers of the Italian television industry, according to the head of the APA, Giancarlo Leone. He has been busy negotiating terms of trade with global broadcasters as the country implements the European Union’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which should allow producers to retain rights when making broadcasts for a premium platform game.
Meanwhile, Cross wrapped up the first season of “Prisma,” an Amazon Italy original centered on identical teenage twins named Marco and Andrea, who defy gender norms in different ways. The show will drop later this year.
Amazon’s first Italian original designed for the international market is “Bang Bang Baby”. The show revolves around a shy and insecure teenager who becomes the youngest member of the Milan mob – not for money, ambition or desire for power, “but to win the love of her father, whom she had long believed to be dead,” says producer Lorenzo Mieli.
“Bang Bang Baby,” which Amazon will release worldwide on April 28, is loosely based on the true story of a teenager born into the notorious Ndrangheta clan in which “women have a central role,” Mieli says. He points out that the key to its appeal is that it’s “very pop and pulpy, but also – somewhat surprisingly – grounded in reality”.
Mieli, who runs the Fremantle unit l’apartment, is proud of her upcoming show, “Eastern Notte,” by author Marco Bellocchio. The series, which is a three-way co-production between RAI, the Franco-German network Arte and Netflix, follows the 1978 kidnapping and assassination of former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by terrorists from the Red Brigades.
In March, Fremantle took over Italy’s Lux Vide, the shingle behind the well-travelled ‘Medici’, ‘Devils’ and ‘Leonardo’ hanks.
He also owns Wildside, another top Italian production company which, in tandem with Apartment, is behind ‘My Brilliant Friend’, the third season of which recently launched to stellar ratings on RAI in Italy and rave reviews in the US on HBO and HBO Max, and on Sky in the UK