Summit ’19: SVODs and the need to stay fresh and adapt

NEW ORLEANS – Deep-pocketed SVOD players and the continuously evolving content ecosystem were top of mind for executives during a top-level panel discussion on the opening day of the 21st edition ...
January 29, 2019

NEW ORLEANS – Deep-pocketed SVOD players and the continuously evolving content ecosystem were top of mind for executives during a top-level panel discussion on the opening day of the 21st edition of the Realscreen Summit in New Orleans on Monday afternoon (Jan. 28).

Moderated by Michael Bancroft, executive producer and co-host of Beyond Innovation and co-host of The Feed with Amber Mac and Michael B, the panel discussed whether producers and content creators can accept losing rights for global reach and how SVOD players have forced media organizations to rethink the way they approach content and content delivery.

Streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu have obviously opened up other avenues where content producers can show and sell content, especially since these players have taken the plunge with unscripted producers.

“It’ll continue to evolve,” Jennifer O’Connell, EVP and head of worldwide alternative programming at Lionsgate, told a packed room at the Sheraton New Orleans. “We’re at beginning of this evolution and figuring out how to be flexible with deals, which is a big part of figuring out the right way to make it work.”

Finding the right home for your program, O’Connell said, is absolutely crucial and cautioned against producers being swayed by the sexiest sell, as it might not always be the best home for that specific project.

“You want the longest life, you just don’t want to make a bunch of season ones,” she said. “Sometimes that’s with the shiny new toy, and sometimes that’s with the more traditional platform that might give it more attention and time.”

Content makers are fundamentally dealing with very dissimilar companies. While producers may have gotten into the habit of dealing with traditional linear networks in a specific way, the habits of new SVOD providers are vastly different and very specific.

As a result of those diverging habits, Brian Speiser, a partner for alternative and factual programming at APA, said the biggest challenges presented to creators moving forward is in determining how to become more flexible in the deal making arena while also realizing that “it’s a paradigm shift right now and we all have to work in a way that maybe the other is not accustomed to working in, and that also requires flexibility on their end, too.”

For content makers launching large shows in North America across the digital landscape, producing for the domestic audience with an eye toward the global marketplace is a delicate balance. One of the bigger distinctions between working directly for more traditional networks and working for an SVOD – Netflix in particular – is that the majority of producers are not privy to the data surrounding the performance of their series.

“There are whole parts of the legacy business model that depended on certain data points that don’t apply to SVOD model, that’s everything from have you valued advertising space to have you valued tape when you’re selling it into syndication or globally,” said David Eilenberg, ITV America’s chief creative officer. “It’s interesting to see how vulnerable certain parts of our legacy business model are being made.”

“There are a growing number of people who think Netflix will have to become an ad-supported model at some point,” added Speiser. “You’re already seeing them buy shows or license shows with interesting brand integration opportunities as well.”

Lauren Gellert, EVP of development and original programming at WE tv noted that Netflix and other major subscription streaming services will now start losing libraries that they’ve previously depended on because media conglomerates like The Walt Disney Company are now launching their own SVOD platforms to superserve the masses.

“We’ll see if they actually have what it takes to go up against Netflix because Netflix innovates, pivots, is nimble and is all the things that traditional networks are usually not,” said moderator Bancroft.

Nimbleness, Lionsgate’s O’Connell concluded, is the operative word for all players throughout the media landscape, whether a buyer, seller, SVOD or traditional. “That is what will separate the winners from the others. You have to be nimble in this world.”

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.