The dark art of DVD has often been a mystery to the tv producer, with tales of sales of tens of thousands of units seemingly tantalizingly out of reach. Factual is not the first genre you think of in relation to rocketing DVD sales, as of course the success stories often come from movies, high-end drama or comedy. But for those projects that do work, it’s a valid and robust potential option in the funding conundrum.
In this environment of shrinking budgets and the risk-adverse broadcaster, the focus on funding programs from the more traditional routes has begun to diminish in line with the diminishing fees. Okay, so everyone knows that, but it is now time for producers to truly sharpen your bargaining skills when it comes to offering up your rights chips and fully exploit this and future opportunities – the key question is ‘how’?
At Zig Zag we have had considerable success working recently with DVD companies as coproducers. One of the challenges can be finding a shared editorial vision between domestic and international markets; often we have to keep the stories generic and linear for the international market, which has meant no UK terrestrial would play ball, which can pose an early funding dilemma. How do we get a budget to stack up without UK terrestrial money? The answer can lie in a three-party funding solution including a UK specialist channel, for example, an international distributor and a worldwide DVD partner. By creating two versions of a program, we then have a project that works equally well across both TV and DVD. This gives us an opportunity to have two cracks at many of the key markets by exploiting the title in both media simultaneously – and providing a range of cross-promotional opportunities. In the past, we’ve found that sometimes half of a project’s funding can be secured from a DVD company. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a model such as this can work more easily when dealing with a topical celebrity story for example, but this model can also work in non-’event’ programming.
For example, a show Zig Zag produced for Bravo in the UK last year, The Real Football Factories, would have struggled to ever get off the ground if we hadn’t pulled in the DVD partner at an early stage. While the UK broadcaster did majority fund the project, there remained a daunting deficit that was largely due to talent costs for the presenter, Danny Dyer. Leading UK DVD distributor 2Entertain was willing to make an early commitment to the series on the basis that the DVD of the earlier theatrical release, The Football Factories (starring Dyer), had been very successful on DVD. The advance funding we got from them helped us manage the deficit and also, importantly, to retain the international rights. When the series became a big hit on Bravo and we went to second series, we were then able to further utilize the role of the DVD company (with a couple of international TV pre-sales) to help cover international clearance costs. That helped get the series into worldwide distribution, thus creating a whole new revenue stream that would also not have been possible without exploiting the DVD rights to their full potential.
The other, more traditional, route is of course to seek out TV coproduction partners in other territories throughout the world, but often the reality is that the majority that get off the ground, with UK producers at least, are either US, Canadian, French or German, all of which can bring their own challenges in terms of objectives and common understanding. In our experience, DVD companies can provide the global reach necessary without the editorial or financial structuring headaches of cross-territory coproduction, which can also save valuable time otherwise spent on international conference calls with funding bodies or matching the egos of different international producers.
In conclusion, it seems there has been a sizable information gap in producers’ knowledge of the market to date. Consequently, many have not often utilized the potential of DVD as a legitimate coproduction partner. The DVD market has matured and, for the right kind of project, is absolutely a reality now for sourcing deficit finance, the same way as perhaps IPTV and new media rights in general will be in the not-too-distant future. If you produce content with DVD in mind from the pre-production stage, and you’ve proactively come up with an idea that has an obvious hook to an event or subject that works in both media, then you could have a vital new source of funding on your hands.