The increasingly complex business of content acquisition and distribution was on full display during a panel discussion at the 2018 Realscreen Summit in Washington, DC on Monday afternoon (Jan. 29).
Moderated by Paul Heaney, CEO of TCB Media Rights, the panelists examined how the need for unique and original content is impacting buying, selling, rights negotiations and programming financing, as well as the emerging models set to alter the shape of the business.
Featured on the session were a group of executives across the distribution, acquisitions and coproduction spaces, including Blue Ant Media’s Solange Attwood, recently elevated to EVP of international; Christian Drobnyk, EVP of programming strategy and acquisitions at National Geographic Channel; Ronan Hand, SVP of global content, non-scripted acquisitions and coproductions for ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE); and Barnaby Shingleton, director of factual and entertainment at Sky Vision.
Below are some of the key impressions from the “Acquisitions and Copros: Trends and Takeaways” panel.
Be opportunistic. Be optimistic.
As Blue Ant’s Attwood explained it, content creators should “feel encouraged and optimistic” about the current climate of the media landscape due to the influx of buyers and their voracious appetites across all platforms and channels than ever before.
“Now more than ever there’s certainly an appetite to explore new models and, in some cases, distributors are willing to take more risks and willing to invest in great creative provided by great producers,” she said. “If we can help steer great commercial deals that deliver great premium content, we will take those risks. Now is the time to bring premium, clear and strategic stories to the market.”
Sky Vision’s Shingleton echoed that sentiment by adding that pitching producers should place some care and attention to the businesses they’re attempting to work with by doing a little homework beforehand.
“Be very clear about what your propositions are, think about who you’re selling it to, why they should be interested in it, why they should care,” he said. “Think about what the top line is – think about what you want your buyer to take away, keep it short and brief because if they’re interested they’ll ask more questions, and if they’re not then move along.”
Don’t be afraid to sample from off the menu
Four months into his newly minted role, Drobnyk believes that producers and distributors should be helping buyers think laterally and creatively about the types of series that might fit the brief that necessarily wouldn’t have previously.
“For us, people know National Geographic. Every catalog that has science, history, adventure, exploration – we’ve seen that content. That’s all on the menu. I’m now looking for stuff that can help us expand beyond that, so the more creative thinking coming from [pitchers] the better.”
Distributors are becoming mini commissioners
ITVS GE has an advantage over other production studios as it is provided with an established pipeline of content coming through all of its acquired studios. Despite this, the studio has been unable to keep up with the audience’s unwavering appetite for unique and original content, and has not been able to deliver the “full breadth of offering” ITV would like to provide its some 3,000-plus partners globally.
To amend gaps in the content market, ITVS GE and Hand have begun going directly to the production companies in that localized area to develop series with them, that ITV then invests in before finding an anchor broadcaster to bring the program out to distribution.
“We’re just really cutting out commissioning editors altogether and – knowing that we could take a chance on not getting the anchor money from the U.S. or the anchor money from wherever it might be – we could still make the deal work across multiple partners,” Hand explained.
“That means you could go to producers directly and you can get a show greenlit without having to go through the full network process, which is a great process because it provides editorial shorthand and sales grammar for what a show looks like. But when you need content you still have to feed your deals, and we’re finding that going straight to producers is much more effective.”
Photo courtesy Rahoul Ghose