Local content, less reliance on fixed-rig cameras and the influence of SVOD players were among the trends and topics occupying conversations between factual producers at MIPCOM this week.
While scripted historical dramas dominated the ad space outside the Palais de Festivals and the red carpet events in Cannes, on panels and among the market booth sellers of nitty-gritty factual are still finding network buyers, but both sides are adapting to a landscape dominated by scripted and competition from SVOD players.
Just over a week after Marjorie Kaplan announced she is stepping down as president of content for Discovery Networks International, the long-time Discovery exec explained during the “The Rise of Factual in Programming’s Horizon” panel the company’s decision to shift resources from a global content pipeline to locally focused content hub in the UK and Ireland.
“We have a very powerful global pipeline but particularly in a world where the viewer is becoming the programmer, having local content and locally relevant content is increasingly important,” she explained on Wednesday (Oct. 19). “The idea that you can build a business simply by having this big pipe that’s available to the world is not the same. And the world is changing.
“It’s not just that the content should be local and stay local,” she continued. “But it’s what can we find around the world that can be shows and move out of those regions? The regions can be content hubs and move the content around.”
Meanwhile, U.S. and UK producer are also looking further afield for program ideas. During a keynote talk, Propagate Content’s Howard Owens said he has deals in Turkey and South Korea and working in the Middle East, Colombia and Venezuela.
South Korea came up again during “The Rise of Factual” as Endemol Shine Group Creative Networks CEO Lisa Perrin explained how the company’s pact with format maker CJ E&M has resulted in a format that is being eyed in the U.S. and UK.
The Society Game is a social experiment series that contrasts political systems of democracy with authoritarian rule and is resonating widely, Perrin suggested, due to the political uncertainty gripping the major territories.
“It feels like there’s a real paradigm change in politics,” she said. “This reality show that started in South Korea is being looked at my networks in America and the UK. The world has become exponentially smaller thanks to how people can plug in.”
Increasingly, factual producers are adopting drama storytelling techniques by inserting stronger points of view into programs and scrapping the usual reality camera set-ups.
Perrin played a teaser for the company’s BBC1 series, Ambulance, which uses Google Maps-like location graphics to track paramedics and emergency calls across London. Although the show is produced by Dragonfly, a company known for fixed-rig camera shows such as Channel 4′s One Born Every Minute, producers opted to for a more fluid look for the new series.
“Rig shows are expensive,” she said. “There is no pretense that they aren’t but there are other ways of achieving the same effects without having to rig 20 ambulances in that city.”
Another rig-less show is FremantleMedia’s reality format Get The F*ck Out of My House, a cutthroat competition with only three rules. Launched in the Netherlands by BlueCircle and RTL 5, the series sends 100 people into an average-sized suburban home in a bid to become the last one standing. Unlike other reality competitions, there are no fixed-rig cameras or one-on-one interviews that take place in front of a green screen.
“I like the fact that it’s pretty free-flowing,” FremantleMedia director of global entertainment Rob Clark said in an interview with realscreen. “We don’t use fixed rig – we go in there and we get the stories. Fixed rig doesn’t give you what’s really happening. You need to get in there with camera.
“There’s nothing shot outside the house,” he added. “The house is the environment the show is shot in. Once you leave the show, we’re not interested in you. You’re out.”
Distributors that spoke with realscreen during MIPCOM reported that networks are still following the “spend more on less” strategy espoused by National Geographic Global Networks CEO Courtney Monroe at the last Realscreen Summit. Buyers want big, “premium” factual with a drama-esque feel plus the usual low-cost cooking and reality shows at the opposite end of the spectrum.
They are also seeing increasing interest from regional OTT players looking to build up content that can air across multiple territories, but the big SVOD players are fickler when it comes to factual.
Netflix and Amazon have reputations for taking worldwide rights when acquiring and commissioning content, including formats – a focus during Monday’s “New Ways of Financing Non-Scripted Formats.”
“Typically, what we’re finding is they are buying globally or next to globally,” said Critical Content president Andrew Marcus. “Sometimes you can set up [a project] on one network and they will buy the remaining territories.
“You’re going see their desire to create local-language content off of those formats,” he added, advising local producers to retain production rights if they can’t keep distribution. “If you are selling to a Netflix or an Amazon you can bake into that deal your ability to be local producer.”
In some cases, SVOD players are having trouble offering local content. In France, Netflix is has lost subscribers to Canaplay thanks in part to local laws that prevent local films from being shown on SVOD until 36 months after release.
However, bigger market trends might change that. In a research presentation during “The Rise of Regional OTT Giants,” consultant Theresa Vimmerslev from Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates noted that competition from ISPs with in-house content bundling are increasingly drawing subscribers and that it is becoming harder for buyers to acquire content for single markets even when better prices are offered.
Although big globally-oriented producers such as FremantleMedia are in talks with SVOD buyers, “at the moment it’s not a big part of our business,” Clark said. “But I think it will increasingly become a bigger part of our business.”
Both Clark and Marcus remain optimistic that what works locally will also resonate globally.
“This is the first time where you can, with one piece of paper, be telling the story to the entire audience of the world. That’s a unique proposition that I don’t believe existed prior to today,” said Marcus. “What’s going to work globally is going to work domestically. You have to create something from the get-go that is going to have the opportunity to be exported around the world and work in every other territory.”