This exclusive acquisition superpanel was a useful survey of evolving acquisition trends in 2013. This was followed by the presentation of the World Screen Content Trendsetter Award, a special recognition of key buyers.
The panel consisted of Starz Media managing director Carmi Zlotnik; Foxtel Management director-programming Ross Crowley, Danish Broadcasting Corporation‘s DR Fiction head of drama Piv Bernth, and TV Azteca‘s head of acquisitions Pedro Lascurain. Group editorial director Anna Carugati of World Screen moderated.
« At the time we launched, » said Crowley, « the networks advocated against us taking any sports » which are pretty crucial. As a result, Foxtel sought other opportunities.
« We target groups and interests that are not the 25-54 (age slot) that the networks are looking for. We also target genres otherwise relegated to late-night, » such as sci-fi fantasy, which Crowley called an « easy win ».
« A lot of great (sci-fi) content was produced internationally but aired at 11 at night, » said Crawley. « Fans started seeing themselves as 11 o’clock people. They’re 8h30 (primetime) people, they’re just different. »
Zlotnik of Starz Media takes a more general view. « I’m scanning the marketplace constantly, either looking for ideas I can produce or co-produce, people I should be engaging with for pitches, formats — I often won’t take a format unless I can also acquire the tape rights simultaneously — and pure acquisitions. »
DR’s Bernth encapsulates her content philosophy thus: « Local stories often become great stories. » She recounted the trajectory of local hit show The Killing: « We were so fed up with the way old (crime) stories were told — one episode, one murder case. » Nobody thought it was a good idea to wait 20 episodes for a murder, she said, but they rolled the dice with The Killing.
« It worked, and now it’s a new way of telling stories. It’s a signal to be courageous » — a message she says she passed to the team’s young writers: « Try to smash everything about the killing… Be innovative. »
Meanwhilst, Lascurain of TV Azteca prefers a more conservative approach. « We always try to wait and see how it’s working in the first market — often the United States — and once it’s proven there, we consider acquiring. »
In many ways, acquisition can seem like alchemy. But Zlotnik did identify a few rules of thumb.
For him, key to acquisition is « philosophical alignment and compatibility: that we’re all trying to make the same show, » he said. Once that happens, it becomes important to position the content in the best possible way.
« What we found on Sunday night, and what we want to employ Saturday night, is the idea of consistency and regularity… that creates expectation, » said Zlotnik. « There’s a cacophony of people calling for the audience’s time » so to make their lives easy, it’s best to produce « simple organising principles » in scheduling.
He also feels it’s pointless to buy original material, or partner with content creators, if the content is squashed, because it’s placed in a slot that competes with a popular competitive show. « If X Factor is going up against a cooking show, we step back, » he said, saying there’s nonetheless « a lot of autonomy to propose a grid » as long as the content is placed in a position to shine.
After the acquisiton superpanel, Reed MIDEM’s Laurine Garaude joined panelists onstage to present the World Screen Award to each one.
« This is something we treasure, » said Garaude. « We’d like to say to each one of you how much we value you in this industry. You’re the heart of the market. »