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.”