MIPCOM ’18: Producers reflect on the health of the television space

CANNES, FRANCE - The demand for content from SVODs and traditional broadcasters has created a seller’s market in the factual and non-scripted space, say leading industry producers. ”I think there is a real ...
October 16, 2018

CANNES, FRANCE - The demand for content from SVODs and traditional broadcasters has created a seller’s market in the factual and non-scripted space, say leading industry producers.

”I think there is a real come back to factual content…It’s a real growth market,” Tom Brisley, creative director of Arrow Media, remarked in the panel discussion, “It’s such a great time to be a producer!” on Tuesday (Oct. 16) at the 2018 MIPCOM market.

Joining Brisley for the discussion, moderated by Manori Ravindran, editor of TBI Magazine, about being a producer in the television space were Kate Beal, CEO of Woodcut Media, and Piv Berth, CEO of Apple Tree Productions, the latter of whom spoke specifically about the scripted market.

Brisley (pictured, left) noted that SVODs are no longer “the new kids on the block” and that because of their presence, smaller broadcasters and cable networks are competing with them for content. ”It’s made the market more reactive and faster,” he added.

Although the current market seems to favor producers and sellers, there are the day-to-day business realities that any prodco needs to address in order to thrive. With the conversation shifting beyond the point of the health of the industry, Beal (right) explained that cash flow is the most important aspect of one’s company because if an executive can’t pay the team, they won’t be seen as reliable and, as a production company, studios need to attract the best talent.

“Without the most talented people, I’m worth nothing. My company is worth nothing,” Beal stated.

Building on Beal’s point, Brisley said that indies often struggle during the growth phase with having enough cash before they reach critical mass. ”Having the right amount of money in the bank is something that we look at all the time.”

On the topic of revenue, Beal said it’s important to never rely on one source for it. She said she’s changed her approach to pitching over the years, becoming far more aggressive by pitching to multiple channels at once.

”I stopped being very British and very polite,” she revealed.

Ravindran moved the discussion on to the topic of distribution, noting that in recent years, various UK indies have developed new models with distributors.

Beal said Woodcut is a prime example of this and works with a number of distributors she sees as critical to the company’s growth. The London-based prodco has four main pillars: true crime, specialist factual, factual entertainment and premium talent documentaries; and in 2016, the company inked a first-look deal with producer-distributor Keshet International for its true crime slate.

”That boosted that arm of our company and we are now exploring other ways to do that with our other three,” she said.

Distributors also play a crucial role in helping foster a company’s reputation with global broadcasters, Beal noted, describing it as a ”halo effect.”

Brisley added that models are constantly changing and that it’s partially due to the rise of SVODs who began receiving projects directly. Distributors had to now think about how they could get compete to gain content to sell.

He said Arrow Media’s travel series World’s Most Extreme for Channel 4 in the UK was funded by C4 and TCB Media Rights, giving them the rights to sell the show around the world. Brisley noted that he wasn’t sure if this type of model would have existed a few years ago, but distributors are now working harder to keep the rights they can and, in turn, sell the programming to as wide a global audience as possible.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.