Amazon Prime Video this month launched the local version of its comedy show “LOL: Last One Laughing” in Italy where it has rapidly become the most watched title ever on the platform’s Italian service, says Amazon Studio Head of Italian Originals Nicole Morganti who in an exclusive interview with Variety discussed Amazon’s local strategy a little over a year after moving into Italy with a multi-genre slate. Edited excerpts.
Congratulations on ‘LOL.’ It’s definitely made a splash in Italy. How much of a challenge was it to produce?
Thanks. It comes after a difficult year in which people have been devastated by COVID and had a huge need to laugh. I’m pleased because we managed to attract all generations, from kids to their grandparents. It spoke to everyone, and tapped into the greatest need we have right now that is laughter and lightness.
This show is a Japanese format that’s also played in Mexico and Australia. How much tweaking did you do?
When I made up the cast, I focused on making it diverse. Some comedians came from YouTube, others from linear TV; some were bigger names than others. The important thing was that they all connected…It’s really an ensemble show, and nobody tried to stand out. They all supported each other. It’s a mix of slapstick and standup. We added a few elements.
Amazon is now launching “LOL” in lots of international territories right?
Yes. It’s been a huge hit in Japan where it’s been running for eight seasons; then came the Mexican version which has also been a big success; then the Australian one that also went very well. And now Germany and Italy, which launched at the same time on April 1. Very soon [on April 23] the French version will be coming, followed by Spain [and Canada]. Germany has already announced the second season.
Will there be a second ‘LOL’ season in Italy?
All I can say is it’s been our most viewed content on Prime Video in Italy ever.
What are the other unscripted Amazon shows in Italy? How significant is unscripted for Amazon in the country?
We’ve launched “Celebrity Hunted,” talent-led docu-movie “Ferro,” about [pop star] Tiziano Ferro that’s done very well; then we’ve done “LOL.” Going forward, we will have the second season of “Celebrity Hunted” and we’ve developed a show in Italy called “Dinner Club,” an innovative food travelogue. Then there is the documentary series “All or Nothing: Juventus.” It’s a great Amazon IP, which has been done everywhere in the world. And Juventus is the third most followed soccer club on social media in the world.
Unscripted gets a bad wrap [in Italy]. Nobody believes in it, because it’s considered a trashy, low cost genre. It’s very hard to convince talents to do unscripted. Especially when you try to get film talents on board. But I really believe in it. I’m very passionate about trying to innovate in a country where unscripted commissions are usually decided based on budget and time constraints, and the need to fit into a linear schedule, with a predetermined length. Now we can raise the bar and do something that’s never been done before: Just think about who the audience is and how we can offer them something new.
Can you give me an overview of what’s in the pipeline on the scripted side?
We are shooting “Anni da Cane” (Dog Years) our first film, which we decided to make for our younger audience. We want to be the home for talents in Italy, which doesn’t just mean celebrities but also applies to off-screen talents. We have a young director, Fabio Mollo, who is very good at working with younger talents; the writers are very young; it’s a smart comedy that we are looking to launch after the summer. This year we will also be launching [comedy series] “Vita da Carlo,” [starring popular local comedian Carlo Verdone]. He is of course probably Italy’s most beloved comedian, who wrote it and of course stars; we will start shooting that soon. We are also on set with “Bang Bang Baby” [Amazon’s first Italian original series] which is our most ambitious scripted show and I am very happy with the way it’s going.
Are you expecting to make other scripted announcements soon?
Our next announcements will all be scripted shows. We launched two unscripted titles in 2020, due to COVID-19. This year we will be producing seven shows [in Italy], not all of which have been announced. And we will grow in 2022. But we will never be looking for volume in our output. That’s not our mission. We will grow; we will do a bit more unscripted; and probably the ratio of unscripted to scripted will even out. But certainly the goal is not to make product in bulk. We don’t want to be in a position where we are producing so much that we can’t closely follow everything we do with a great deal of attention. So when producers come to us with 15 ideas we tell them: ‘Pick no more than two ideas to pitch to us!’”
Clearly in Italy, where you also offer live sports, you have a very diversified offer which seems crucial to your strategy.
Our strategy is first of all to be a home for talent. And to create content that reflects current trends in Italy. Content that can connect us with audiences based on their biggest passions. Comedy is a genre that people really like; and audiences are seeking us out for it. So we are imbuing comedy into content where you would never expect it. In “Bang Bang Baby” there is irony. In “Anni Da Cane” there is irony. In “Dinner Club,” which is a food show, there is irony. We want to mix the passions of Italians with different genres and do this at the top level. We want to provide a different angle to genres that are known quantities and are loved by Italians; but always with an unexpected perspective.