ViacomCBS International Studios Announces Plans to Ramp Up Production in Southern Europe

ViacomCBS International Studios is setting its sights on Southern Europe, with company execs outlining their plans for the region at Rome’s MIA market on Saturday.

“South Europe is a focus for us right now. We have quite a strong lineup in development in Spain right now, and Italy to us is our next big priority,” said ViacomCBS International Studios senior vice president Laura Abril, who heads the company’s EMEAA team in Spain.

The company announced last week that it is developing a TV series based on the life of the Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi, with producer Frida Torresblanco (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “The Assassination of Richard Nixon”) and former ViacomCBS International Studios U.K. managing director Jill Offman attached as executive producers. Gentileschi was one of the most acclaimed painters of the Baroque period, and would later become an icon of the modern-day feminist movement. The series is slated to start production in 2021.

Abril said ViacomCBS is committed to growing its investment in the Italian market. “We’ve been producing a lot in Italy. We have been producing mainly for our brands,” she said. “Our aim now is to be able to get great partners and get out into the market, and continue to do this content creation that we love.”

The veteran executive said the coronavirus pandemic has given the studio a chance to rethink its approach to physical production around the globe. “I think that trying to seek and look for the best locations and the best talent around the world, being a global company like ViacomCBS, is something that we needed to do, and probably that COVID-19 has forced us to accelerate,” she said.

She cited “Ridiculousness,” an MTV format produced in Spain for 11 territories, and “Gypsy Bride,” an upcoming crime series the studio is currently developing in Spain, as examples of “local stories [that] have a glocal appeal.”

“In the end, emotions are global, are universal, and we can identify what the best locations can be to actually do the different faces of the production,” she added.

Earlier this month, ViacomCBS announced it will launch its AVOD service Pluto TV in Spain from the end of October, before rolling out in France and Italy in 2021. Jaime Ondarza, EVP and general manager for ViacomCBS Networks South Europe and Middle East, said that the company will also be ramping up production in those countries in the next year.

“We don’t pretend to cover all the windows with our channels, our branded properties,” he said. “We want to partner with other people, because some of the content we can use for our channels, some for our streaming service…[in order] to have more exposure, and also to finance more ambitious projects.”

He continued: “We look at production companies in these countries as potential partners, not as competitors, because we know that together we are stronger.”

This year MIA announced it would be handing out the first ViacomCBS International Studios Award to one of the 13 drama series taking part in the market’s Drama Pitching Forum.

Ondarza called Italy “an important market” for ViacomCBS, describing it as “a big source of talent and expertise.” He invoked the legacy of Cinecittà Studios and Rome’s fabled history as Hollywood on the Tiber while noting that ViacomCBS would be participating in the ANICA Academy, an initiative focused on the development of skills and new talent in the Italian industry, spearheaded by the Italian motion picture association.

“We are not looking at Italy as a production hub for the Italian market only,” he added. “As [Abril] said, local content can come from everywhere and speak to everybody around the world.”

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