As US TV gains global perspective, ABC goes Bollywood

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Priyanka Chopra in "Quantico."
Priyanka Chopra in "Quantico."

Indian mega-star Priyanka Chopra is bringing her social-media following to her role in "Quantico" -- the kind of international buzz US networks crave

Priyanka Chopra is the star of ABC’s upcoming series "Quantico" and has about 26 million followers on Facebook and Twitter, but chances are you’ve never heard of her.

Never that is unless you happen to be a fan of Bollywood films. Chopra, 33, the former Miss World, is one of the highest-paid actresses in India and has starred in some 45 films. In February, Chopra inked a one-year deal with ABC that resulted in her role in "Quantico," a thriller profiling young FBI recruits.

Signing Chopra is part of the network’s push for diversity, which has so far manifested in shows like "Blackish" and "Fresh off the Boat," which profile African-American and Asian-American families, respectively. It’s also a nod to the increasingly global nature of American TV consumption. While the show premieres in the US. on Sept. 27, it will also make its debut in India on Oct. 3 via StarWorldIndia, a basic cable and satellite TV provider.

As U.S. consumers — particularly younger ones — continue to tune out TV, the networks are looking to a global audience to help prop up revenues. Drafting an international star with a huge social media following is one solution. Another is to promote new shows in foreign markets via social media. One by-product may be that, like U.S. movies, U.S. TV shows may be increasingly developed for a global market, rather than a domestic one.

In ABC’s case, bringing Chopra on has already reaped dividends. "Quantico" is one of the most-buzzed new fall TV shows, with 2.5 million engagements via Twitter and Facebook in mid-August, according to ListenFirst Media. It helps that Chopra is an enthusiastic promoter of the show and plugs it often.

"We r here to kick ass and chew bubblegum…N we’re all ounextta bubblegum!! #QUANTICO!!," Chopra recently tweeted. Such promotion not only brings the attention to Chopra’s fans, but gets "Quantico" in front of more social-media users in the US who may wonder what all the buzz is about.

"Quantico" isn’t the only US show getting an international push this fall. Fox is also promoting "Scream Queens" — the No. 2 the most-buzzed show with 14.3 million mentions — in Brazil and France with Facebook and Twitter accounts aimed at both countries.

While no one tracks the spread of global viewership of US shows, Brad Adgate, research director at Horizon Media, says that the global market is an increasing concern for U.S. TV broadcasters. CBS renewed "Hawaii 5-O" for a sixth season this year despite middling ratings because it performed well in foreign markets. "It certainly can be a source of revenue," he says. "Ratings are important, but how much money a show produces is more important."

Adgate says most US shows don’t have much of an afterlife because they’re serialized and aren’t a fit for syndication, so if one appeals to a global audience, it can now be streamed at some point.

Global streaming of current TV shows, however, is usually impossible, says Chris Geraci, president of national broadcast at OmnicomMediaGroup. "There’s a lot of rules about streaming in other countries," he says. "A lot of times you’re not able to stream stuff that’s based in the US. I just got back from Europe, and I realized pretty quickly that a lot of things don’t go through because of your location."

Geraci says that US shows have always been developed with consideration for an international aftermarket, but "I think it’s interesting that they’re using talent that’s been developed in other parts of the world because you have a built-in audience for the time that it does go international. The media owners need to diversify as much as possible, whether it’s on different platforms or different markets."

While local rules about TV ownership will prevent the globalization of U.S. TV to some extent, the U.S. movie industry went global long ago. In 2004, the American box office accounted for 51.3% of the worldwide growth. In 2014, the figure was 42.9%. Critics say the emphasis on foreign markets has caused the studios to churn out action-laden films that translate well abroad because dialogue isn’t that important.

The model for a successful TV show depends more on a story arc, so the medium is probably safe experiencing a similar phenomenon. As ABC’s experiment shows, though, consideration of foreign markets might result in more on-air diversity and more of a global mindset.


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