Skip to main content

The Cable Show 2011: Why 'High School Musical' WorkedInternationally and 'Glee' Hasn't (Yet)

Cable Show 2011: Complete Coverage

Chicago -- When it comes to taking a network's programming
around the world, dramas tend to do better than comedies, said executives in a
panel session at The Cable Show Tuesday afternoon.

"So much of the value of comedy comes in the joke, when you
dub and subtitle, it looks less natural," said Hernan Lopez, president/CEO of
Fox International Channels, speaking on the panel "Will It Play in Perugia:
Cable Programming's Global Ambitions."

But when it comes to musicals on television, the result is
less clear-cut.

Disney's High School
played extremely well internationally, especially in Latin America,
where the channel produced three local theatrical movies based on HSM but with tweaks to adapt characters
to the local culture. "In addition to success in its original version, it
spawned all these different versions and adaptations that actually created
local stars for us as well," said Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney
Channels Worldwide.

But for a more recent musical success, Fox's Glee, it's harder to create an
international version. "We have to spend a lot more time getting artists
comfortable with licensing rights to the show," Lopez said. Censorship rules in
some countries would also mean some controversial content would have to be
toned down in an international version.

For a nonfiction network like Discovery Communications,
where international accounts for one-third of the company's revenue and
operating profit, its programs travel well because they're less culturally
specific. "But there are definite differences from country to country and
market to market in terms of how well they do," said Mark Hollinger, with one
exception - "Shark Week does well everywhere."

But besides the need for attention to dubbing or adaptions
for local markets, the panelists said that generally a show that is successful
in the U.S. can be successful abroad.

"A good show will travel," Lopez said. "More often than not,
a show that has a great audience in the U.S. that is launched internationally
and doesn't work is probably because the channel wasn't right or it wasn't
marketed aggressively enough."

He does note there are exceptions, however, based on content.
One National Geographic series you won't be seeing in Latin America anytime
soon -- Border Wars.