Realscreen’s Trailblazers: TCB Media Rights

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we ...
January 18, 2019

In an industry that seems to be changing on a daily basis, it’s hard to keep track of those changes, and the creative and strategic minds behind them. But we managed to catch up with several such individuals and companies for this year’s edition of our annual series. Through their work, these trailblazers have either anticipated change and harnessed it for their benefit, or have served as key instigators of those moves. As a new year begins with more evolution and innovation doubtlessly on tap, Realscreen salutes those who propelled 2018 to fascinating heights. This edition of our Trailblazers list continues with TCB Media Rights.

When Paul Heaney (pictured, above) launched London-headquartered TCB Media Rights in 2012 after leaving his post as president at UK distributor Cineflix Rights, he saw an opportunity to develop a new type of distribution model.

The focus of his venture would involve fostering broader relationships with both broadcasters and producers, a shift from the traditional approach of the distribution world, and more in line with new model sales agencies such as UK-based Drive. This past year, TCB went further afield and took a bold stride into the commissioning space, with former BBC Worldwide commissioning editor Hannah Demidowicz joining TCB in that role.

In just six years, the company has seen tremendous growth, which presumably made it an attractive acquisition target for Toronto-headquartered Kew Media Group, which purchased TCB for approximately US$7.4 million in October. Over the past 12 months, TCB Media has launched nearly 80 projects, of which 25 were fully or heavily funded by the distributor.

How did you set out to make TCB Media different from other distributors when you set up shop in 2012?
I felt I should create a business that was as fast moving as unscripted is — it demands to be fast moving as producers need responses quickly. I wanted it to be dynamic. I know it’s cliché [but] I felt that whatever had gone before with distribution, why not do it a different way.

Why did you decide to move in to commissioning?
I felt if we didn’t do this we wouldn’t get the pipeline of content that we wanted. I thought we’re not doing justice to the money we are putting in; we’re not doing justice to the producers we are working with, many of whom are putting their trust in you not to just make the show happen, but also to deliver some profit afterwards from backend revenue. I felt the only way to do this was to bring in someone who would oversee the content and offer a skillful qualified eye that the producers and broadcasters involved would respect.

Do you see distributors moving more explicitly into commissioning becoming the norm?
Yes, we are all ambitious. The list of responsibilities needed to guide the program to full execution means you need to bring someone in, another pair of eyes, who will oversee the project. If more shows are being made where there isn’t a commissioning broadcaster this is going to happen all the time.

How do you balance the company’s expanding roles — being a commissioner and executive producer while maintaining your traditional role as a distributor?
I don’t want to commission every project — we have to keep this in check or it will suck up too many resources. We need a healthy balance in favor of standard pre-sales, advance or minimum guarantee models, along with the commissioning model.

See the rest of our Trailblazers, as featured in the January/February 2019 edition of Realscreen, here.

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.