Netflix has asserted that it has a “long-term commitment” to producing shows out of the UK and is growing “deep roots” with the British creative community.
Anne Mensah, Vice President of Original Series, Netflix told the House of Lords’ Communications Committee, “I was brought in to essentially work with British talent and to help and support that talent to reach a global stage. I believe my appointment and the appointment of my team in London is an indication of Netflix’s commitment and its long-term commitment to production in the UK.”
The former Sky drama chief said that Netflix wanted to have a mixed model in the UK with original commissions, co-productions with linear broadcasters including the BBC and Channel 4 and co-licensing deals. “It’s about collaboration, not competition,” she said.
She also revealed that Netflix, which now has around 130 employees in the UK, a marked increase over the last twelve months, has begun sharing ratings data with a number of producers in the UK.
Mensah, who also previously worked at the BBC, was speaking alongside Benjamin King, Director Public Policy UK, Netflix, who called Netflix’s position in the UK right now as an “inflection point”.
Her comments, coming as part of the House of Lords’ investigation into public service broadcasting in the age of video on demand, were some of her first public comments since joining Netflix, as revealed by Deadline in November.
Netflix currently has around 10M subscribers in the UK and it has said that it is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in local content with the UK one of its top three locations for production alongside the U.S. and Canada.
Last year, around one third of its 141 original European projects, which breaks down as 81 commissions and 60 co-productions, came out of the UK and between 2015 and 2018, its production investment in the UK increased by 178% and it is currently involved in 50 shows in the UK right now.
This includes series such as Left Bank’s royal drama The Crown and Charlie Brooker’s dystopian anthology series Black Mirror as well as features including Outlaw King. Recent commissions including Laurie Nunn’s Sex Education and Ricky Gervais’ After Life, which have both been handed second season. Forthcoming titles include a new season of Drake-produced gritty gang drama Top Boy, which previously aired on Channel 4, and soccer drama The English Game from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
Mensah (left) said that the doors were open in the UK and that there were “many paths to yes at Netflix”. “To frame it, the UK is full of amazing creative voices, we’ve got a long and successful track record of commissioning British shows, but they’ve been commissioned from LA, which makes it a little bit harder. The idea of having a full-service enterprise in the UK, means we can be there on the same time zone and with the same understanding of the market as the creatives we want to work with,” she said.
This runs contrary to recent comments from The Crown producer Andy Harries, who has claimed that the “power of British television has essentially moved to LA”.
Netflix co-productions include BBC partnerships such as Bodyguard, Black Earth Rising, Collateral, Troy: Fall of a City, Wanderlust and Watership Down as well as forthcoming reboot of Dracula and Sister Pictures’ Tokyo-set Giri/Haji, as well as Channel 4 partnerships including The End of The F***ing World and Mae and George.
Mensah said, “Co-production remains the lifeblood of what we do. It’s about being able to being able to commit to talent and wherever that works best for talent.”
Elsewhere, the issue of an SVOD levy came up, something that King said that he was not convinced that a “compelling case” had been made. “We have to be very clear what problem [a levy] is intended to solve. The concept of an SVOD levy is a solution in search of a problem. Looking at our own intentions, our motivations to invest in the UK is driven by what our members want to watch, I’m not sure a levy would necessarily stimulate investment in a different kind of content or lead to better outcomes for audiences.”