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What the triumph of Mare fuori can teach us

The Rai series has become a huge phenomenon among the under 25s. But what lessons can the whole Italian industry draw from it?

Nowadays, it’s hard to find teenagers who haven’t seen Mare Fuori. Let’s try to understand the data and what we can learn from it, starting with the 14 million views and 2.9 million viewers/accounts who watched the last six episodes on Rai Play, on Monday, February 13th (in total, the views in February were 50 million).

It’s funny because Rai is considered a television network aimed at the elderly, and to tell the truth, the average age of its viewers is rather high. However, in recent years, there has been nothing so successful for an Italian product aimed at young people. More than half of the audience who have seen the series in recent weeks are under 25 years old, a percentage that rises to 70% if we focus on those under 35.

The narrative that has been told is that the series did not work on Rai 2/Rai Play and only exploded thanks to the release of the first two seasons on Netflix. However, the data (both on Rai Play and Rai Due) were growing, even during the same season. From September 2020 to April 2022, Mare Fuori had reached 51.6 million views and 18.2 million hours on Rai Play, to which obviously the linear numbers must be added (for example, the last episode of the second season had 1,263,000 viewers and a 7.50% share on Rai Due). In other words, we cannot say that it started from zero; these were important numbers to inherit for any platform. For this third season, we could have expected a contraction of “television” data compared to “streaming” data, considering that it was the first time that a Rai series was released entirely first on Rai Play and then arrived on linear television. However, this week (Wednesday, February 15th), the first episodes were released on Rai Due, and the improvement is significant and surprising. As reported by the website, the first two episodes obtained 1,291,000 viewers with a 7.2% share (the first episode captured 1.387.000 viewers and 7%; the second, 1.204.000 viewers and 7.5%). These numbers are significantly higher than those of the debut on Rai 2 of the second season, which had 1,023,000 viewers and a 5.1% share (the first episode had 1.064.000 viewers and 4.65%, the second 983.000 and 5.57%).

And, if you think about it, there is almost no reason for this: after the huge views on Rai Play, we could have thought that few (among those interested in this product) still had to see it, yet the numbers (considering the channel’s usual ratings) are decent/good. In this sense, it is interesting to note that just over a million of these viewers on Rai Due were over 35 years old (and more than 400,000 were over 65 years old), while less than 150,000 were between 15 and 24 years old. So, evidently, a significant portion of the audience was composed of those who rarely or never use the platform, but there are still interesting numbers of young people who have likely rewatched the series.

There is no doubt, however, that the arrival of the first two seasons on Netflix has provided a strong boost and has introduced this product to an audience that may not often frequent Rai and has gradually discovered the series, more and more. After landing on Netflix in June of last year, the two seasons remained in the top ten in Italy for 17 weeks (the first) and 18 weeks ((the second one), a extraordinary figure (consider that the fourth season of Stranger Things stopped at 15, no other foreign product has reached a double digits number of weeks). Then, in the last three weeks it has returned to the top ten, and between 6 and 12 February the two seasons of Mare fuori were at the top of the series in Italy, also beating You, who has just made his debut in the world with the excellent result of 92 million hours (considering the ratio between our subscribers and those worldwide, it is logical to think that You has done at least 1.5 million hours here, therefore Mare fuori…). Below tou can see is better:

The only reflection I suggest to Rai is to think why so many people preferred to watch the previous seasons on Netflix to prepare for the third season (Was the user experience judged better? Very likely, but we know that Netflix is preferred over all other streamers, even American ones).

A fundamental lesson for platforms (all of them) lies in the number of episodes/length. If the parameter for streamers is hours watched, it is obvious that it is better to have a season of over 12 hours than a product of 4 or 5 hours maximum because even those who love the second will watch much less than those who prefer the first. We should get rid of the idea that only high-cost per episode productions must go on the platforms; it is not true at all. In this sense, it is worth seeing how the three seasons of Mare Fuori are positioned in terms of budget compared to Original Netflix productions. To do so, look at the graph below:

In short, the first season of “Mare Fuori” costs about 13,000 euros per minute, the third season of “Summertime,” which has a nearly equal budget, is 26,000 euros per minute, and “La vita bugiarda degli adulti” is above 60,000 euros per minute.

I take this opportunity to emphasize the importance of creating series with a high number of seasons (and episodes) to increase the commercial value of these products. Mare Fuori is already guaranteed to have at least four seasons (but it’s difficult to imagine stopping there, and in fact, the head writer, Cristiana Farina, has announced that the fifth and sixth seasons are also planned) and 48 episodes. No platform has produced original Italian content that has reached this number of seasons (now for “Suburra,” a reboot is in the works, which could be considered a fourth season, but it may not be correct), and we are even worse off when it comes to episodes.

Another essential aspect to consider arises from a simple question: if an acquisition product like Mare Fuori achieves these results and clearly beats the Originals, are we sure it’s worth spending significant amounts of money to produce so many series (which may or may not work, generally for now, the platforms that work in Italy have very few successful domestic products) and not instead expanding these acquisitions by fishing for titles that may be more in line with their audience?

A suggestion for next year (since filming for the fourth season will begin in May, a release in the first half of 2024 is conceivable). It would be a good idea to test a theatrical event with the first two episodes in cinemas to see how fans might react (I think it would be really positive). Moreover, it’s amusing: exhibitors love to talk about the alternative content of Netflix and Amazon, maybe even asking to have House of the Dragon in cinemas, but then they forget that Rai has created many important events in cinemas with its fiction products, such as Io sono Mia (more than 300,000 euros), Fabrizio De Andrè – Principe libero (over 800,000 euros), L’amica geniale (almost 500,000 euros), and without forgetting, of course, the excellent result of the documentary Chiara Ferragni: Unposted (more than 1.6 million).

Moreover, the Italian film industry could learn a lot, if it can forget that arrogance that (except for a few exceptions) allows it to speak very well to the urban elites but less to the rest of the country. For example, with young actors who have become very famous (I wouldn’t use the term “stars” yet, as they still have a lot to prove), will it be possible to create theatrical movies for teenagers even? It would be important, but given the industry’s little propensity to make films for this target (and to make them effective, which really speaks to young people, not their parents), I wouldn’t be sure about the results.

Finally, it’s interesting to see the contribution of TikTok to the visibility of the series, thanks to the social data analysis carried out by the team of our publisher, Brad&k Productions, and in particular by Federica Guzzon. NetflixIT posted “The Friendship between Carmine and Filippo” on July 26, 2022, and “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me with Nicolas” on December 8, 2022. For the rest, in June and July, Netflix mainly focused on “Stranger Things 4” and later on “Umbrella Academy,” while between May and July, it was “Skam.” The virality of the content, therefore, seems to come more from TikTok users than from Netflix’s channel. In fact, we can see from this graph that there was not a significant growth in cumulative views of the series on TikTok during the summer:

Here are the TikTok data from January 1st to February 13th, with a strong growth in the last few days:

For those who are curious, these are the most successful TikTok videos related to “Mare Fuori”:

Most viewed video and video with the most likes (fan video during the filming of the series)

Most shared video (the cast at Sanremo)

Video with the highest engagement (fan video of the Carmine-Rosa Ricci couple)

Here are two scenes from the third season that went viral:

Rosa’s outburst

Rosa’s attempt to kill Carmine

Robert Bernocchi
E' stato Head of productions a Onemore Pictures e Data and Business Analyst at & BoxOffice.Ninja. In passato, responsabile marketing e acquisizioni presso Microcinema Distribuzione, marketing e acquisizioni presso MyMovies.
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