TV production companies know they need to make the most of their catalogues, but how? A panel of specialists assembled at MIPCOM this morning to discuss some of the best ways to find new outlets and repackage programmes, and take advantage of new trends in the remake market.
The panel was moderated by Pat Quinn (standing), partner and manager at Quinn Media Management. She was joined by Nathalie Carpentier (far left), agent in audiovisual rights at French company C.A.L; Rob Kaplan (second left), SVP of alternative and international television at APA in the US; and Fox International Channels EVP Emiliano Saccone.
The topic: what do do with your catalogue material? “Maybe it’s a little old, maybe two years ago it was good, but what do you do with it now?” asked Quinn, by way of introduction. Carpentier was first to speak, defining the term ‘remake’ in its original Hollywood form for the benefit of attendees.
“It’s a way to have a new exploitation,” she said. “A remake is a resumption of a previously existing movie. New content can be more or less faithful to the original… Through the sale, our goal is to best optimise the profitability of an intellectual product.”
She also talked about the ability of remakes to “create a modern mythology”, and cited examples like Frankenstein and Dracula as stories that have been remade regularly, along with The Three Musketeers – currently in cinemas again in France with a new film remake.
She warned that “we just need to be careful to not always just be interested in histories, even though we know they are eternal“.
She also referred to sequels and prequels in the film world. “The most important point is the legal point,” added Carpentier, pointing to broadcasting rights contracts, and the issue of whether producers hold on to the rights for remakes, spin-offs, sequels and prequels (or some of those).
She also had some advice: “If you have the rights for remakes, sell them! But put on the market new ideas, not always the same… For me, at my age, always Three Musketeers? No, it’s finished!”
Next up was Rob Kaplan from talent agency APA, whose job involves matching and repackaging shows and formats in response to the demands of the studios and networks.
“When you’re a network executive you need to have a specific show to fit a specific brand and to target a specific demo,” he said, drawing on his past experience as a buyer. “You need to know what the buyer wants and what the buyer is willing to pay for it, and then find a way to package that so they feel comfortable giving you money for it… Instead of trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, you have to find a way to make the thing that you have worth giving to them.”
“Agency’s role is to package,” he added. “We have to filter through everyone’s catalogues, everyone’s ideas… Our role is to know what they [networks]want, get as many elements as possible together, and present it so it ends up on the air.”
Kaplan also had some tips for re-monetising, saying that advertising agencies are looking for ideas to package up themselves, harking back to the original definition of soap operas when there were programmes designed to promote consumer products.
Over to Saccone, who was talking about how the actual channels are finding ways to repackage their content. Fox International Channels runs all of Fox’s cable channels outside the US, and Saccone’s role includes overseeing the booming Latin American market, as well as global content initiatives.
“When you are a network executive, and an international network executive, you know that your core business is creating essentially TV channels that provide value to your platforms around the world,” he said. “In our case, we’re talking about pay-TV platforms… The fundamental part of the equation there is providing value.”
That includes creating tentpole channels that “are not second class brands, but brands that are drivers for those platforms to gain more subscribers”. Hence the need for great content.
He added that the business has changed, due to the unstable economic conditions around the world, which has knock-on effects for the TV providers. “Their margins compress, so naturally they’ll tend to want to pay you less for your channel. Therefore you have to really manage the cost of your content. Keep on delivering top brands, top Fox channels, but repurpose your content library in a way where you don’t spend that much money on the content that runs on your channels.”
He cited the example of Italian channel Fox Retro, which is now rolling out across Africa, which Saccone said is a booming market for television at the moment. “The core content for this brand is content that has been somewhat out of the market,” he said. “We have been successful in putting together the right mix of content, the right branding, the right buzz around it… The good news about this is content like this happens to really draw a crowd still, which in turn gives you good possibilities to sell advertising... Cable operators value it.”
Saccone added that Fox is aggressively moving from being in a position of being content renters to being content owners, which he admitted changes the context of content acquisitions. “I have to have certain ownership privileges, and by that I mean control,” he said. “If I’m going to engage in an acquisition contract of content doing a remake, I’m going to have to secure certain rights.”
That includes extra flexibility, to help when cable providers want deeper tie-ins to content. Fox is starting to produce content locally and internationally through its own means, too – more expensive than a straight licence, but it gives the company the control that it needs.
“The name of the game is that: having control of your content,” he finished.
In the Q&A question, Kaplan was asked about packaging shows with advertisers – a growing trend. He did a deal for a format called Lovebug, working with Unilever, a production company and ultimately with the TBS network. “They had only a 2.5 minute slot available before Sex And The City that they wanted to fill,” he said. Lovebug did the filling.
Where are there opportunities – what genres is there currently a demand for, and perhaps not enough of a supply? “I think from a global perspective, there’s a lot to be done across lifestyle content,” said Saccone. “Content in your own reflection: to use an example from the US, any of the content that a TV channel like Bravo, TLC… Everything unscripted running from cooking shows through reality… That’s a source of content that could be exploited through the rest of the world.”
He also said another opportunity that is out there, citing Ugly Betty as the example: a soap opera brought into the US from Colombia. “Suddenly, US producers and production entities have started to look elsewhere beyond importing formats from either Northern Europe or the UK or looking at producing in Canada or South Africa, and have started looking for relevant product that can be repurposed in the US from Latin America. That’s another major opportunity.”
What about catalogues of standard-definition content, when there’s such a push towards high-definition in the TV industry? Saccone admitted that there’s a question of “who pays for what” when upconverting older shows for HD channels, but said a lot of channels are still standard definition.
“There are many territories that will be just fine with buying standard definition. You have a good five more years.”
Kaplan agreed that the question of who pays to upconvert to HD is something to be wrestled with in negotiations. But he advised producers to be as flexible as possible, including looking for different financing structures to do the necessary deals.