The first day of TV Days opened with the Soft Talk “Stories that Travel: Inspiration and Vision,” which asked the question: What is the creative/commercial key to winning the export game?

After opening with clips of the participating producers’ and distributors’ biggest shows, the unanimous answers were best summed up HBO Europe’s Antony Root: “Universal stories in a local setting.” Along with high production value – and genre genre genre.

Two exemplary cases are Gomorrah, which producer Riccardo Tozzi (Cattleya) says is actually “is the story of a dysfunctional family, just told though the crime genre, that’s why it works everywhere;” and Inspector Montalbano, another local export with a strong international following. Eleonora Andreatta (RAI Fiction) further pointed out that both series are so local that they’re not even in Italian, but spoken in the regional dialects.

Jan Mojto (Beta) – who co-moderated with Virginia Mouseler (The Wit) – referred half-jokingly to “Scandinavian imperialism,” and mused as to whether it was cultural, business, or both? Petri Kemppinen (Nordisk Film and TV Fund) said it essentially stems from the fact that his region – five countries with overall just 25 million people – has always been intertwined, production-wise.

Ross Biggam (ACT) took it a step further and said the “internationalization of the sector has put some of the smaller markets in the forefront. Nordic markets have been co-producing forever because they couldn’t afford to produce on their own. So countries that were traditionally very closed, like the UK and France, are looking to smaller markets rather than global ones to learn how to do it.”

And what goes around comes around, it seems. Pampas’ Nicolas Traube said TV in Europe because of the US: “In the last 10-20 years we were able to have edgier programs in Europe thanks to [audience] fragmentation in America.” Now, however, says Kemppinen, “From my discussions with broadcasters in Nordic countries, the current feeling is that American shows do not deliver any longer.”

Turkish shows, for example, have conquered most of Latin America and are expanding in Europe and Avi Armoza of the wildly successful Armoza Formats, behind some of Israel’s biggest hits and exported formats, cited the American remake of the Israeli show Hostages: “People realized the Israeli series was better than the American version so we were able to sell a show, for the first time, to the BBC, to France. This allowed us to create an international co-production with France to produce the second season.”

Armoza also knows that is important to balance both the creative and business elements: “If you want to be stable in business you have to be in all genres, but there’s always a need for good stories and now there’s the knowledge that good stories can come everywhere. [In the US] they spend $300 million for developing shows, of which only a small part make it to television screens. So if anywhere in the world anyone can get a high-concept story, and invest in it, the business side can generate creativity.”