Distribution one-on-ones: Leila Monks, TVF International

As we approach MIPTV, realscreen has asked several acquisition execs to let us know what they'll be on the lookout for in Cannes. Here, Leila Monks, director at TVF International in London, shares her thoughts.
March 21, 2011

As we approach MIPTV, realscreen has asked several acquisition execs to let us know what they’ll be on the lookout for in Cannes, and also to give us their takes on market trends in factual programming. Here, Leila Monks, director at TVF International in London, shares her thoughts.

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 as 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?”

How have both the recent economic downturn and ongoing consolidation within the TV industry impacted the distribution sector, and the climate for selling content?

Distribution has always been fiercely competitive and so it should be. In recent years the trend towards consolidation has meant that the pool of available programming made by independent producers and therefore available to independent distributors such as ourselves has shrunk dramatically. That is also one of the reasons why we have gone back into production [with William & Kate: A Royal Love Story, produced with Imagicians Television] – to future-proof our supply chain and ensure that we are continuing to build our catalog with high quality factual content.

I think that the major media companies do have their advantages, of course, but I do believe that independent companies like ours do serve certain production companies and projects better as we are specialized in what we do and are able to work very closely with producers on their long-term business goals. Our global reach and expertise can be drawn upon right from the beginning of a project and we can be involved either as a straight distribution partner or as a coproduction partner. This depth of relationship would not be possible if we were operating with thousands of hours and a multitude of genres simultaneously.

If you were to look into your crystal ball, what genres of factual do you see picking up steam over the year ahead, both in terms of buyer interest and what producers are pitching to you?

Interest in factual programming shows no sign of slowing down and seems stronger than ever, which is fantastic. It’s the producer’s job to stay one step ahead of the viewer and be able to come up with the latest trends either in style of programming or content before it is in fact a trend!

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 is formatted all the way through. Interest in characters will continue to be strong – great characters can cross borders and pull in viewers from all demos and they can also bring a new audience to topics. 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!

Look for more distribution one-on-ones on and in our March/April 2011 issue, online March 24.

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