Market buzz

As buyers and sellers make their annual migration to the Croisette, we asked several execs to tell us what they want, what's been working for them as of late and what they think will sell
October 1, 2010


What are some of the more recent acquisitions you’ve made over the past year? Are they spread across the board in terms of genre/sub-genre or are you finding that you’re interested in acquiring more from certain genres to accommodate demand?
Passion is coming to MIPCOM with 300 hours of new programming, [including] a good mix of lifestyle (property and food), factual entertainment, reality and some amazing documentaries that will really stand out in the schedule. The interesting thing about some of our flagship shows this market is we were instrumental in making them happen by attaching a U.S. broadcast license upfront as part of the production budget. This includes Babies Behind Bars with WEtv, My Sex Robot with Discovery Health and Too Fat for 15 with the Style Network. One format genre broadcasters are still seeking out is food competition and we are very excited to be revealing three new food formats from Scripps Networks International that have a new fresh edge on what is out there already: 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Cupcake Wars and Great Food Truck Race.

What trends are you noticing in terms of broadcasters and their wish-lists? Again, are there certain genres that are hot at present and others that have cooled?
Game shows have cooled considerably from 18 months ago. Food and property both remain hot as people continue to think [about] home comforts and saving money. There are not many new factual entertainment formats and I am always looking for something new and fresh. We launched VH1′s Dad Camp at MIPTV in April and it is a perfect example of a successful global concept. We optioned that format into six territories.

You’ve been attending the markets with Passion in the midst of the economic turmoil. Care to make any predictions for the climate in general at MIPCOM this year, and from recent activity, do you think things are on an upswing economically?
I do believe there is a cautious upswing. There is no doubt that business is back on track and acquisition is flavor of the month as it represents value for money in the schedule. MIPTV was positive for us earlier in the year and the summer months have not dipped at all which is unusual for July and August when holidays take precedent over buying, but this year it has been business as usual.


What sort of factual programming are you looking for currently for your channels?
We are looking for broad-appeal factual entertainment titles to sit alongside the traditional blue-chip documentaries the BBC is renowned for making. There is a large variance in the types of genres that appeal to viewers of our localised BBC Knowledge channels around the world. In Asia, for instance, business programming such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice is hugely popular, while in the Nordic region, we’ve received impressive ratings for crime and war documentaries. Adventure strands, for example, ‘Bruce Parry’s Amazon,’ are particularly well-liked in Africa, as are programs on the British monarchy.

With the world (supposedly) coming out of the economic crisis, are your budgets for acquisitions increasing?
We were careful to try to retain our programming budget rather than heavily reducing it during the economic downturn in order to provide our audiences with the same level of high quality content on our channels.

Are there any emerging trends you’ve noticed over the past year in terms of programming being offered by suppliers, and that being snapped up by broadcasters?
Scripted formats certainly seem to be making a comeback after the surge of unscripted reality shows that we saw emerge over the last few years. Food and competitive cooking shows remain popular with a recent example being Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, which recently picked up an award at the Creative Arts Emmys in August and series such as Come Dine with Me and MasterChef/MasterChef Australia. There also seems to have been a re-emergence in the popularity of physical game shows such as Wipeout and 101 Ways to Leave a Gameshow.


As you head to MIPCOM with DRG this year, what are your buying priorities, from a factual or fact ent perspective?
DRG’s interest runs from reality straight through to feature documentary so we’re interested in a very wide variety, but for this market I’d put glossy fact ent series like Heston’s Mission Impossible and high-end intelligent factual such as BP: Eye of the Storm at the top of my wish list.

Given that DRG is active in securing format deals, what trends have you been seeing in format activity in the market? Is there an increase in older formats being revived (a la Fort Boyard) or is there still a sizable amount of new ideas coming through?
We have seen a willingness in select territories to take risks on new ideas, particularly on primetime with family entertainment formats with a fresh twist like Your Chance to Dance, but tried and true ratings winners continue to appeal to broadcasters as there is a successful model to follow. A prime example would be The Real Hustle that is in now in its seventh series for the BBC; six local versions have been made, including an Australian version which launched this fall.

Are there any genres of factual or fact ent that you expect to be in demand at the market this year or over the next year?
With the proliferation of multi-channels internationally, fact ent programs that can be aired in their original version and then also formatted locally like Don’t Tell the Bride continue to appeal as they provide volume while being a cost-effective proposition. Celebrity-fronted factual will continue to be popular, particularly when the personality has an established fan base such as Martin Clunes, star of drama series Doc Martin, who fronts Martin Clunes: Man to Manta – In Search of the Giant Ray, a one-hour special we’re launching this MIPCOM.

Tell us more about your remit at DRG – will first-look deals be a priority?
We have a number of healthy first-look deals in place. For some relationships a first look or development deal is the right way forward, but we assess each opportunity on a case by case basis, rather than taking a cookie-cutter approach. A first-look deal is not always in the producer’s best interest and not being tied to one can give them greater flexibility in finding the right partner for each of their projects.


What have been some of the recent factual acquisitions made by Parthenon?
We have made a number of very exciting acquisitions due to launch at MIPCOM. Science Exposed is our key factual launch and a total visual feast of CGI and special effects. Some of the most provocative questions from the world of science are explored in the series to reveal some fascinating insights. The one-hour Indian Tiger uncovers the world of the Indian tigers, their secrets and battle for survival. Finally, the one-hour Wild Japan looks at the wildlife of this fascinating country, a topic not widely covered by film-makers.

What are you looking for at the moment – in your genres of expertise, are there any trends you’re noticing amongst broadcasters in terms of the sort of content they’re looking for?
Blue-chip documentaries on wildlife or science topics are always in demand. It’s not so much about specific genres but more about the quality of the program. Right now, broadcasters are looking to differentiate themselves with innovative quality-led programming. The challenge is always to make programs that stand out in a very crowded factual market.

What’s the climate been like over the past year in terms of selling content? Are we out of the woods yet re: the economic crisis?
No, I don’t think so. It’s a tough market although we’ve continued to do well. The difficulty distributors currently face is in having to provide deficit financing for productions while awaiting payments from broadcasters. Still, that wouldn’t prevent us from talking to producers about their funding requirements for a really high-end program/series with international appeal.

Of the genres that Parthenon deals in with factual – nature, science, history and people – are there any that seem to be enjoying a resurgence or upswing in terms of sales?
Factual entertainment programming with strong storylines is very in demand at the moment. This is an area I am looking to expand more into at Parthenon. For example, Hope for Wildlife is launching at MIPCOM and follows a team of volunteers at a wildlife animal sanctuary in Canada. It’s gripping stuff and follows both the human and animal dramas that unfold throughout the series. We are also actively participating in pitches for a variety of 3D projects as this is going to be very much in demand.


What are some of the highlights of what Shine International is bringing to MIPCOM?
The Shine Group has been incredibly successful taking formats and migrating them internationally, both through our own companies and through our distribution outfit. MasterChef will continue to be a focus because it’s more than just a show, it’s a brand. We have a whole slate of TLC content which we’re coming to the market with: Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta; Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss; Homemade Millionaire; DC Cupcakes and Cellblock 6: Female Lock Up. In terms of Shine International’s internal stuff, there’s Got to Dance, which has sold to CBS with Paula Abdul for the winter; Must be the Music, Princess’ new show on Sky and Don’t Stop Believing, Shine’s new show on Channel Five.

On the documentary side, we have One Born Every Minute, from Dragonfly which we’ve also sold in the U.S. as well. We’ve got quite a slate.

What trends are you seeing in terms of what’s selling?
There’s a tremendous interest in shows built on relatable topics, like cooking, food or weight loss and I think we’ve sort of nailed it with The Biggest Loser and MasterChef, which take that theme on different ends of the spectrum. Reality competition shows and game shows continue to sell well. The world is ripe for a new game and I’m excited because I think we’ll have something for the world in that space. Docusoaps are also increasing in popularity and I think there’s an increased appetite overseas for American content, which is good.
I think people want television shows that can be bigger than TV, especially the bigger broadcasters where the back end is meaningful, in terms of there being an ancillary business. Both Biggest Loser and MasterChef are more than just TV shows. That’s important at a time when you’re trying to get more bang for your buck. A show like that can provide all the entertainment and exactly the same riveting TV but you can have gyms, cookbooks, online sites, etc. That’s something that buyers are keen on.

What territories would you like to increase presence in?
We are looking to do more in Asia. I just think it’s exciting and a bit of a Wild West. I think there’s opportunity there that has not yet been mined. I’m excited about that and I think we have the ideal team to do it.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.