MIPDoc ’16: Factual buyers talk pros and cons of copro

Four programming and acquisitions executives from across the globe shared their views from the top during MIPDoc's "What Do Buyers Want," a discussion that focused on the state of coproductions, and the arrival of SVOD giant Netflix into the factual space.
April 3, 2016

Four programming and acquisitions executives from across the globe shared their “views from the top” during MIPDoc’s “What Do Buyers Want,” a discussion that focused on the state of coproductions, and the arrival of SVOD giant Netflix into the factual space.

“One of the great things about coproductions is you’re sharing the risk with an international partner, and I think another incredibly valuable point is that you have more people bringing in a fresh perspective to a program,” said David Royle, executive VP of programming and production at Smithsonian Networks, adding that the network’s audience cares only for quality programming and doesn’t take much stock in the process behind that programming making it to air.

While that may be the case for an established American network like Smithsonian, Corentin Glutron, RMC Découverte’s head of acquisitions, noted that the experience is a completely different one for French audiences when factual programs or specials are presented in their native language rather than in English.

“That’s the biggest deal for us, having a French TV channel specialized in factual because it’s not that easy to have a huge amount of hours in French,” he explained. “That was the difference between the original Top Gear – which did very well for us in the beginning – but the French version of Top Gear doubled the ratings of the UK version.”

For German producer-distributor ZDF Enterprises, entering into a copro agreement means having a broad re-editing right to the localized adaptation in order to ensure the programming corresponds to the needs of the ZDFE brand and the program’s slot.

On the contract side of things, the Mainz-headquartered company requires completion bonds and guarantees should a producer be paid at an earlier stage of production.

“We can only come into an international copro if we know the financing is completed,” explained Kristina Hollstein, ZDF’s director of acquisitions and coproductions, documentaries. “All this makes life for producers difficult so I would rather recommend a producer come to us if it’s possible as a pre-sale partner.”

The discussion naturally turned to the U.S. streaming giant Netflix – a new player entering the unscripted genre with such recent original factual productions as Making a Murderer, What Happened Miss Simone?, Chef’s Table, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru and Cooked.

The general consensus among the executives was one of acceptance, with the majority noting that the SVOD service’s arrival to the world of non-fiction has seen more money coming into the genre and has introduced a broader audience to factual content.

“For producers of factual content, more competition is a great thing,” Nesta Owens, director of programs at Discovery UK, stated. “Netflix will hopefully raise the bar for everybody and the quality of the content we’re all getting will be better overall.”

Hollstein, meanwhile, voiced concern that while ZDF currently cooperates with Netflix due to the service’s need for local programming in the German market, that can change in an instant.

“We’re very attentive to see how it may change the factual market,” the exec said. “We will then have to see what that means for things like protecting the rights to our programs – things like holdbacks and retaining rights for our own catch-up service.”

About The Author
Selina Chignall joins the realscreen team as a staff writer. Prior to working with rs, she covered lobbying activity at Hill Times Publishing. She also spent a year covering the Hill as a journalist with iPolitics. Her beat focused on youth, education, democratic reform, innovation and infrastructure. She holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University and a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.