In its first decade, Toronto-based Tricon Films and Television has built up formidable production and distribution divisions and is celebrating its 10th anniversary by opening a new office in L.A. Company president Andrea Gorfolova credits a combination of hard work, smart diversification and good fortune with taking Tricon to where it is today.
With a background in finance, Gorfolova says that she had a few misconceptions to clear up about the TV industry in the company’s early days. ‘I never knew that the entertainment industry is a real business,’ she admits. ‘I always felt like there was [the odd] company here and there making a few shows [with] creative people, but I never really saw it as a big business from a business perspective. I was obviously very incorrect.’
The first series that Tricon pitched, reality dating show Matchmaker, was commissioned by Canadian lifestyle channel Slice. ‘[With] the first series, we were very fortunate and successful and we went to 169 episodes,’ she recalls. ‘It was a very good base to be able to build from and develop along the way.’
Rather than sit back and hope for the best, Gorfolova says the onus was always on development. ‘We develop anywhere from 40-100 [shows] a year and we get eight-to-12 commissioned a year,’ she says. ‘You need to develop a lot of stuff and work hard pitching all of it. You also have to be very good at managing what you can let go of and what you can keep on the backburner because there are shows that we did that become very popular at certain points, but that were pitched two years prior to when they got picked up and nobody was interested in them.’
Tricon’s TV catalog includes Ad Persuasion, Bitchin’ Kitchen and Marriage Under Construction. While its development strategy was a key to guiding Tricon through bouts of economic instability, another element that helped the company prosper was its distribution business, launched eight years ago and headed up by Carrie Mudd, SVP, development and international sales.
‘In the first four years of the [distribution] business, it was almost like a hobby that we paid for,’ Gorfolova says. ‘The first few years we were in deficit, not in profit, but we’ve grown significantly over that four-year break and our distribution is almost a more profitable business than production is.’
Mudd believes the secret to the success of the distribution arm is that Tricon offers a lot more to producers than an occasional report. ‘They need strategic individual plans of attack for each title, very separate from the next,’ she says. Tricon also offers advances and deficit funding for third-party content. ‘We have a very niche catalog and we’ve built very strong relationships on the broadcast front so we need to make sure that the content that we’re filling our catalog with matches what they’re looking for, which is why we get in bed with people at an earlier stage.’ Mudd also credits recent hire Jon Rutherford, VP, international sales and acquisitions, with bringing a fresh look to the team.
As for the recent recession, when money to commission new series was scarce, Gorfolova found that broadcasters were keen to acquire finished product, which Tricon had plenty of thanks to the distribution arm. ‘We sold more than we had in our years prior to that.’
Looking ahead, Gorfolova says the company’s main focus is to continue to build its production and distribution arms, but its current 18-month push is to bring a new focus to its kids’ programming and scripted business, alongside its non-fiction and documentary fare.