Summerhill Television’s head of distribution, Adam Block, shared his method of keeping afloat and flourishing in stormy times while he was at NATPE this week. Block paused from his purpose at the market – to sell some of the Toronto-based production and distribution company’s programming outside of Canada, like Love, Inc., a 13 x 30-minute docusoap on speed-dating – to have a quick chat with realscreen about how his company has not only been busy on the distribution side, but is on pace to surpass 2008′s record numbers.
Block says that last year, Summerhill’s distribution was up 20% over 2007 and on average had tripled annual growth. This month, offers and deals were closed for 96% of the entire year in the first month alone. ‘We’re off to a good start,’ Block says.
How did the Canadian company succeed where others are feeling the squeeze? Block, who travels almost 10 months of the year, feels the company’s success comes from its possession of a very finite sense of the marketplace. ‘There are 1,200 buyers in the marketplace, and we’re competing against much bigger players all selling to the same buyers. We need to, as a smaller player, know our place in the market,’ he says. In the first year on the job, Block says that it was important to qualify the buyer space – how many buyers are worldwide? How many have money? In the end, Summerhill reaches out constantly to 850 buyers and maintains close relationships with 150 buyers in Europe, Asia, and the United States, among others. Block is very focused on where he’s spending his time since the distribution unit consists mainly of himself and support help.
On top of knowing target areas, Block also mentions that the company’s proprietary technology is also a boon. Instead of sending DVDs of programming, which adds months of unnecessary time in turnaround, Summerhill has a competitive advantage in its screening technology. The company has a website that enables them to deliver full episode screeners in an iTunes-like playlist format with supporting marketing materials to buyers that makes their review and consideration process easy, says Block. This technology allows the buyers’ decision time to be reduced down to six weeks at the most, which enables more sales volume.