TV shows and movies featuring gay and/or transsexual characters have seen a boom on subscription streaming video services. New data from Ampere Analysis suggests SVOD platforms are leading the way in commissioning LGBT+ content. Between Q1 2019 and Q2 2020, 12 services globally ordered multiple LGBT+ movies or series. 80% of those commissions were destined for on-demand platforms, with public broadcasters such as the BBC and France Télévisions also favouring on-demand delivery for series with LGBT+ themes.
Linear TV operators were more likely to opt for one-off TV specials on LGBT+ topics than commit to long-form series. While SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon have the advantage of global reach when it comes to finding an audience for LGBT+ shows, their LGBT+ catalogs remain majority U.S.-sourced, but this looks set to change as LGBT+ content produced internationally catches the attention of the major SVOD players.
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“Netflix and Amazon Prime Video’s originals ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘Transparent’ confirmed the appeal of LGBT+ themed content beyond the LGBT+ community,” analyst Alice Thorpe said in a statement. “Now queer content is an expected part of new SVOD services’ offerings, as we’ve seen with newly launched platforms like HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi.”
London-based Ampere found 18- to 34-year-olds are the most likely to identify as part of, and be accepting of, the LGBT+ community. This audience also over-indexes for subscribing to SVOD services. HBO Max has commissioned as many series about LGBT+ people in the past 12 months as its pay-TV channels have in the past three years.
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These titles include comedy drama series “Beth & Sam” and “Drama Queen.” The platform also has LGBT+ movies in the pipeline, such as YA novel adaptation “I’ll Be the One” and “We Were There, Too,” from Gloria Calderón Kellett and Natasha Rothwell.
With three upcoming series, “Expecting,” “Clean Slate,” and a reboot of the iconic British series “Queer as Folk,” Peacock’s LGBT+ content equates to 7% of its entire original commissions slate to date.
Although Netflix and Amazon have seen the proportion of their global TV catalogs that is sourced from U.S. producers decline to around 29% and 31%, respectively, this is not the case for LGBT+ TV content.
LGBT+ TV shows on Netflix skew 65% American-produced. On Amazon it’s 58%. One of the reasons for this is likely to relate to the risks associated with producing such content overseas. For instance, recently the Turkish Netflix original, “If Only,” was denied filming rights by the country’s government because it featured a gay supporting character.
In general, however, LGBT+ shows resonate across many territories and offer great potential for international distribution.
“One aspect of LGBT+ content’s specific appeal is its ability to travel across territories and inspire fandom,” Thorpe said. “This allows characters to travel into spin-off series as we’ve seen in Spain and Mexico. The international players are staring to acquire some of this locally produced content and we expect to see more of it on the SVOD platforms in the coming quarters.”
Indeed, Spain’s Atresmedia’s long-running series, “Amar es para siempre” spawned modern-day drama “#Luimelia.” Commissioned for the group’s premium SVOD tier, Atresplayer Premium, it has already been renewed for a further two seasons. HBO Max recently acquired the platform’s original bioseries “Veneno,” about the life of the Spanish singer and trans icon.
In Mexico, Televisa’s “Mi marido tiene familia” spawned “El corazon nunca se equivoca,” a series about a young gay couple aimed at a teen audience. Elsewhere, Colombia’s RCN has “Lala’s Spa,” starring trans actress Isabella Santiago in production. In Brazil, Globoplay is working on a bioseries about Marielle Franco and Amazon has original September in the works.
The Korean market has been more conservative than APAC countries like Thailand and Japan where LGBT+ content is more common. However, the tide is changing and recently more well-rounded LGBT+ characters have appeared, for instance in jTBC’s “Itaewon Class.” This became the third-most-watched show in the broadcaster’s history in Q1 2020. The international platforms have spotted untapped potential in Korean content, with series such as “Where Your Eyes Linger,” recently acquired by Netflix for its Korean service.