‘There Isn’t One Standard Model’: Mipcom Panelists Talk International Drama Co-Productions

There isn’t a typical co-production model when it comes to international drama, said panelists at Mipcom.  

“I wish there was. That’s our struggle now: finding the model that would make everyone happy,” noted Fremantle’s Christian Vesper.  

“It all starts with the passion of the writer or creator, who really wants to make the show, and the supporting platform. Let’s be honest: They are all streamers now,” said Lisa Perrin, ITV Studios.

“The budgets are getting tougher but expectations are as high. There will be different funding models, outside money coming in. Private equity money, which can complicate things.”

However, private equity coming into series could be “interesting,” added Matt Brodlie of Upgrade Production.

“That is the indie film model. Without private equity, you wouldn’t have Sundance, just Marvel over and over again. Which we have anyway.”

While the budgets are changing, so are the tastes. 

“At one point it’s thrillers and then six months later it’s romcoms. It’s difficult to keep up with what everybody wants and who they even are,” he said, with Vesper observing:  

“We have all had the experience of working with an executive for a year, getting drafts to pitch to their senior team and then it disappears or changes. It does happen more frequently than it used to. But there continue to be new players.”  

In the challenging market, you have to develop projects you care about, noted Anke Stoll at Keshet International, mentioning its series “Diamonds,” commissioned by Netflix and Belgium’s VRT.

“[Belgium production company] De Mensen came to us five, six years ago. We felt this fitted Keshet’s DNA. We brought on two Israeli writers, the director is Israeli, and developed it together. I am very proud of it.”  

With more countries offering tax breaks, it makes a difference to budgets. But as noticed by Perrin, a “patchwork quilt” of funding is to be expected. Although it might make things harder editorially. 

“You are taking multiple notes that aren’t necessarily agreeing with each other. But that’s the way you fund these things,” she said, mentioning “Django,” a reimagining of Sergio Corbucci’s spaghetti western created for Sky and Canal+ and fresh off its premiere at Rome Film Fest. 

“It was filmed in Romania for tax credits, shot in English. We want to make more of these, but they are complicated to put together.” 

You can’t sell a “factory-style product,” said Vesper.

“Some of our creatives, like Sorrentino or Guadagnino, don’t necessarily care about what we think when they are making TV. Our job is to work with networks defending this artist’s vision.” 

And while “good stories come from everywhere,” the show needs to be its most impactful on its home territory first. 

“That’s why buyers want it. The fact that it becomes more internationally interesting and accessible is usually gravy,” added Brodlie.

On the road to post-pandemic recovery

Before the panel, Omdia’s Tim Westcott took a closer look at the impact of the pandemic on TV production. 

Broadcaster advertising revenues dropped 10% worldwide in 2020, following the 6% fall in 2019. Latin America was the most affected region, it was stated, with ad revenues falling by a third. Still, recovery was seen in 2021, and is expected to continue. 

2020 was the year online video subscription overtook pay TV.

“It was a trend that was already happening, but it was accelerated,” he noted.  

While there are still more pay TV households than SVOD households, 43% of them will have both in 2027, Omdia predicted. 

All but two of the top 20 TV producers increased revenue in 2021. One of the two which didn’t was Walt Disney Company.  

“We think it’s because they launched Disney+ and sell less of their content to third parties,” explained Westcott.

France’s Banijay Group became the biggest producer outside of the U.S. with the Endemol Shine deal. While TV production is still a fragmented business, the “big groups are getting bigger,” with Disney, at no. 1, eight times bigger than BBC Studios at no. 10.  

France’s Gaumont topped the growth rankings. Its TV division reported a 178% increase in sales, mainly due to Netflix commissions. South Korea’s JTBC also emerged as a player, due to the popularity of Korean content worldwide.  

Growth in revenues testifies to a recovery in commissioning, as well as the resurgence of mergers and acquisitions. Omdia tracked 61 M&A deals already in 2022. France has replaced the U,K. as the most active buyer, with Banijay, Newen and Asacha building their networks. Amazon’s $8.5 billion takeover of MGM Studios was named the biggest deal. Also, scripted distributors expect to see an increase in the number of FAST channel buyers in the next 12 months.

While Netflix is facing negative investor sentiment after reporting subscriber declines, its strategy to invest in exclusive content has paid off. Netflix Originals have taken a steadily increasing share of views. According to PlumResearch, 17 of the 20 most-watched shows globally were originals like “Stranger Things.” 

Omdia estimated that Netflix has invested almost $15 billion in content last year, more than the entire TV industry of all countries except the U.S. Its competitors, it was said, are expected to follow suit. 

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