In mid-February, John McVay will move from Glasgow, where he is director of the Research Centre for Television and Interactivity, and re-locate to London, in order to take up his new post as chief executive of the U.K.’s Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT). Founded in 1991, PACT is a trade association that works to promote and protect the interests of independent TV, film, animation, and new media prodcos.
Last year saw a number of watershed moments for the U.K.’s indie community. In April, the BBC closed down its Independent Commissioning Group and implemented output guarantees for its in-house departments. In September, Café Productions – a company that long stood as an example of success through coproduction – joined Canada’s Alliance Atlantis in a last minute deal that saved the prodco from receivership. As the new year kicks off, McVay considers these events and his goals for PACT and its members.
What are some of the challenges you face as the chief executive of PACT?
One thing we need to do is help members look at new and different business models. That may come from new media markets, from new relationships with these markets, or from different supply chain configurations. For instance, you have indies co-venturing with broadcasters and banks to develop online propositions. This generates revenues for all three, that are then fed back into the indies’ ability to retain intellectual property rights.
Does the U.K. market present unique challenges for independents?
From what I’ve seen, it’s going to go through a period of change. It’s becoming similar to other TV markets, like in North America, that have a lot of niche channels being supplied by digital, cable and satellite. About 20% of U.K. households are now on cable and satellite, but within these, the preferred viewing is for the standard five channels we have on
terrestrial. The U.K. audience is very loyal to the key [terrestrial] brands.
How important is new media to the success of independent producers?
We have to be reminded that broadcasting already has eyeballs, therefore TV can drive new media and new content. For most Europeans, the TV is a much loved and much cherished piece of furniture. The thing it doesn’t do, but will do, is interact. I think a lot of the
values, expertise, imagination and entrepreneurship that exists within the independent production community translates well into new media. There are a lot of synergies and opportunities that can be developed there. People should be looking to play their strengths and bring those things together to create something compelling for the audience.
Are the events of 2000 indicative of a larger problem?
Most medium-size independents are still looking at the domestic market as their main
revenue stream. I think the international market is something people really need to look at and get involved with, when the time is right.
When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a forester – think of the Monty Python sketch. Then I discovered The Clash, joined a punk band and far too many years later became the chief executive of PACT. When I’ll ever get back to cutting down trees, I just don’t know.