(Photo of Jeanne Newman by Rahoul Ghose)
Moderated by Kinetic Content CEO Chris Coelen, The Rights War shone the spotlight on the all-important (and occasionally contentious) subject of rights, with networks (specifically, legal counsel for networks), producers, agents and lawyers all represented on the panel. George Cheeks, executive vice president of business affairs for MTV Networks, and Maggie Reilly-Brooks, VP & deputy general counsel for AETN, said that while their companies still employ the “rights for risk” model (in which they fully fund projects in exchange for 100% of the rights), producers that make hits for nets can be incentivized with better back end, renegotiated deals, et cetera. And coming to the table with several hits and an international parent provides more leverage. As Phil Segal, president and executive producer from FremantleMedia prodco Original Productions maintained, “You either find a partner who can give you the opportunity to grow and succeed or you’re not in the game.”
Other topics were touched upon during the discussion beyond rights-related concerns, including the impact of consolidation, in-house production at nets (“The experiment will be a scary one,” offered Jeanne Newman, partner at Hansen, Jacobson, Teller, Hoberman, Newman, Warren & Richman, LLP) and whether or not a PACT-styled push for terms of trade for producers could fly in the U.S. On the latter, don’t hold your breath. While Greg Lipstone, head of international TV and media for ICM said that the Terms of Trade fought for by UK producers “create an environment for people to invest in their product and take more risks, knowing they have the world to play with,” each panelist agreed that the idea wouldn’t be workable in the States. But for those despairing about going to “war” with a broadcaster over rights, MTV’s Cheeks says the atmosphere is actually “much more collegial these days.”
Closing off the day at the Summit was the ever-popular “So You Think You Can Pitch” live pitching competition, in which five brave producers presented projects to a panel of industry judges, including CABLEready president/CEO Gary Lico, Oxygen SVP of development Cori Abraham, Spike TV EVP of original series Sharon Levy and SVP of non-fiction and alternative programming for A&E Rob Sharenow. The victorious pitcher, who claimed the prize of a year-long subscription to CableU, a pass to the 2012 Realscreen Summit, and a Flip Mino HD camera, was comedian/producer Johnathan Walton for his “weird news” magazine Some Stupid Show.