Here, four acquisitions executives from assorted international distributors let us know what’s on their shopping lists for MIPTV and share their thoughts on what buyers are looking for.
YVONNE BODY, HEAD OF COPRODUCTIONS AND ACQUISITIONS, BEYOND DISTRIBUTION (LONDON/SYDNEY)
Is there anything you’re looking for specifically this time around at MIPTV?
As always, we are looking for high quality programming to satisfy the demands of our buyers. On the factual side, there’s certainly an appetite for lifestyle and reality programming, but when you look at the range of broadcasters and territories that Beyond sells to, we’re asked for pretty much everything. We’re definitely focusing on series rather than one-offs, although there is still a market for very strong singles on social issues.
How has ongoing consolidation in the production sector impacted the acquisitions side? Is the supply of content dwindling?
Medium-sized production companies are being swallowed up by the big players with their own distribution arms, so there’s less available content out there. We were beginning to get concerned at the drop in production over the last 18 months caused by the global economic crisis, but things do seem to be picking up again now.
You’ve recently begun more of a push into the UK producers’ market. What new relationships have you struck up with UK prodcos, and are there any other regions that you’re looking to increase working relationships with?
We have been deliberately targeting the UK as we felt that UK content was under-represented in our catalog. We’re still in the middle of that initiative, but are proud to have started working with Back2Back Productions from Brighton (watch out for their Hunks at MIP) and True North Productions from Leeds. It would be great to source more programming from the U.S., but most producers there end up having to let the broadcaster take all rights in order to get their programs made. Generally, we’re looking for good content from anywhere.
In terms of subject matter or genre, what’s been selling well internationally for you?
Lifestyle has been performing very well for us, from Brunei to the Ukraine, especially in the areas of property and food. Crime always works, as does celebrity. And MythBusters, which we produce, just sells and sells.
From your perspective, are there any genres or topics that you think will be on the rise in the year ahead?
Judging from the talk at the Realscreen Summit, unscripted reality in the form of job-based observational documentary series is still on the rise, at least in North America, where all the channels seem to be looking for the same thing, irrespective of their historical brands. There can be very few multi-generational, small family-run businesses between the East and West coasts not being pitched on a talent tape somewhere.
Producers do seem to be finding the most amazing characters in the most obscure places, but there’s a danger that we’ll be swamped by a glut of lookalike reality shows and there’ll be nothing new when broadcasters decide they want something different.
NICOLA ANDREWS, HEAD OF ACQUISITIONS, CINEFLIX INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION (LONDON)
What were some of the more recent acquisitions in the non-fiction/factual department that the company has made?
Sextuplets Take New York (8 x 30 minutes and 1 x 60 minutes, as we are selling both the series and the special) and Extreme Poodles (1 x 60 minutes), both from TLC; Lost Ships of Rome (1 x 60 minutes) from Windfall Films; The Last War Heroes (6 x 60 minutes) by Impossible Pictures; Conviction Kitchen Australia (an 8 x 60 minute Cineflix format which is being produced by Seven Network); Cupcake Girls 2 (14 x 30 minutes by Force Four Entertainment) and Pitchin’ In 2 (13 x 30 minutes) and The Opener 2 (13 x 60 minutes), both by Frantic Films. There are more to mention, pending paperwork to be ready for MIPTV.
Is there anything genre or subject matter-wise that you’re more keen to see, and that you’ll specifically be looking for at the market? Any genres or subject-matter that you’re not interested in at this point?
We are particularly interested in history and science.
In terms of volume, are you primarily looking for returning series or are one-offs still desired?
We are looking for both returning series and one-off episodes if they are event television.
Even though you came on board at Cineflix International relatively recently, given the move towards building up a scripted catalog, is it fair to say that the company’s budget for acquisitions has increased as of late? Are there any other areas, perhaps within factual entertainment and/or formats, that Cineflix International is looking to grow further within its catalog?
Third-party programming continues to play an important part in our catalog and we plan to increase this year by year.
We formulated a strategy and budget to acquire programming and are always on the lookout for first-class television to augment our portfolio, as well as good specialist factual; the demand hasn’t gone away.
LEILA MONKS, DIRECTOR, TVF INTERNATIONAL (LONDON)
Recently, TVF has moved more into working directly with indie producers on projects, such as William & Kate: A Royal Love Story with Imagicians Television. What sort of projects are you looking at developing?
TVF has an esteemed history in production and that’s in fact how the business began. We were one of the top suppliers of science and history content to Channel 4 amongst other UK broadcasters and to broadcasters in the U.S. We have built a fantastic profile over the years and have a wide network of buyers across the globe that we are talking to on a daily basis. This puts us in an ideal position to know what sort of programming our buyers are looking for – in other words, what we can sell. It makes sense to use our production expertise and finger on the pulse of the market to produce content directly for that market and we are happy to work in association with producers like Imagicians Television to make things happen.
What are you looking to acquire currently, in terms of subject matter or genre?
In terms of acquisitions we are always on the lookout for strong one-offs – we have a great history in selling these with the knowledge and passion that they really need to ensure they get the best exposure. The TV world is teeming at the moment with “character- based” ob docs so if there are any wonderful characters – windows onto worlds that have not yet been exposed – then we’d love to hear about them. Access-driven and well-told stories are always of interest as well as good lifestyle programming – what’s going to be the next trend after “baking?”
What genres of factual do you see picking up steam over the year ahead?
If I had to look into my crystal ball I would say that formats with a small ‘f’ will outstrip strongly formatted content in terms of popularity. The viewer gets tired easily of the same thing so setting up a situation and then letting it unravel will have more of a pull than a show that’s formatted all the way through.
Great characters can cross borders and pull in viewers from all demos, and they can also bring a new audience to topics. Also, celebrities will continue to be popular and the appetite for crime is never ending. I’ll now await all of those celebrity crime proposals to flood my inbox!
GWEN JONES MACAULAY, SKYWRITER MEDIA (TORONTO)
Given that Skywriter has recently moved into distributing factual/non-fiction fare, can you give us an overview of what the catalog consists of so far in terms of genres, subject matter, etc?
We now have nearly 1,000 hours of completed programming ranging from family and animated properties to lifestyle, documentaries and entertainment series.
Is there anything you’re looking for specifically? What’s on the shopping list for MIPTV?
We are on the hunt for any quality content to represent internationally or in key territories. More specifically, we are interested in programming that will complement our current offering, specifically looking for family, lifestyle and factual entertainment programming. I spent over a decade with BBC Worldwide, and was able to gain a clear picture of quality programming and what works best for the international market. At Skywriter, I hope to translate that experience into a well-rounded catalog to suit broadcast needs and extend our brand as a producer and distributor of high quality entertainment.
Does Skywriter provide financing for certain projects?
Yes, for the right project we are able to assist in the financing to help get that show made. We are interested in coming in on shows at all stages of development and production and are open to a number of different financial models.
Is there a ratio of Canadian to international programs that you handle?
There’s no set ratio on what we look for. However, given our local relationships, we currently have a high ratio of Canadian programs. We would love to represent many more international projects as well. We have great relationships with broadcasters and producers alike all over the world. We’re interested in representing a cross-section of that programming in our catalog.
Last year the company entered into a strategic alliance with Toronto-based Summerhill Entertainment which sees the company distribute Summerhill’s catalog and future programming. That bolstered the factual content in your catalog considerably. Any other deals like that on the horizon, or that you’re interested in entertaining?
We are always looking for strategic alliances that can help build our fast growing business. Acquisitions can take many forms – we are willing to look at libraries as well as projects on an individual basis and at various stages; from a fully complete film to an idea on a piece of paper.