Rozan Hamaker, Dermot Horan, Jason Thorp, and Aurelie De Troyer accept their awards, standing between World Screen’s Anna Carugati-Guise and Reed MIDEM’s Laurine Garaude.
This afternoon, we learned what programmers want at the Acquisition Superpanel, composed of moderator Anna Carugati-Guise, group editorial editor, World Screen; Dermot Horan, director of acquisitions & coproductions, RTE; Rozan Hamaker, head of acquisitions & SBS 9 channel manager, SBS Broadcasting; Jason Thorp, CEO of Global Series Network; and Aurelie De Troyer, VP global acquisitions & co-production, AMC Networks Global.
This panel’s been going on for about seven years, Carugati-Guise observed, and this year it was especially notable: “This year, we have two primarily linear organisations and two completely digital streaming services,” she pointed out.
Which isn’t to say that linear isn’t playing multi-platform beautifully. Public broadcasting can probably be considered the most traditional of the bunch, but Horan pointed out that, during Ireland’s hurricane, RTE saw two million hits on its website.
There are “enormous audiences for live linear TV, huge audiences for radio, huge ones for the news app, huge audiences for web services,” he said. “That shows in a microcosm how a public broadcaster can move with the times: Be relevant, local and national, and—in a world where most people in Ireland can receive hundreds of different UK channels—how do we remain different from the UK? We’re a well-resourced and forward-thinking public broadcaster that can offer Irish content that Irish viewers want, whatever platform.”
Here’s a breakdown of what our panelists are looking for specifically.
“I personally look for formats,” Horan said. “Dancing with the Stars does really well in Ireland. Irish First Dates does well. And we just recommissioned Who Do You Think You Are?”
RTE is also seeking to fill slots between 9-11pm, when audiences have “put the kids to bed and want to have something challenging,” Horan added. “We are increasingly looking to co-fund programming with likeminded partners.”
Last year, it orchestrated a deal with Arté, with whom it co-produced the documentary Countdown to Calvary. “It’s not so much Christian; it’s about that highly-charged political time in Judea,” Horan explained.
Hamaker of SBS then explained what she’s looking for. “We air a lot of features on Veronica,” a channel with a mostly-male audience, she said. “We need to brand them and do smart marketing things with them. if they don’t fit in a particular genre, it’s difficult for us to acquire these movies.”
For example, Veronica does franchises on Mondays, like Fast and the Furious or Jason Bourne. “One-offs are difficult, we have other slots for that,” said Hamaker. Older movies are also carefully marketed: “Coyote Ugly gave us huge ratings because of how we packaged it… how do we make it fresh and new?”
And in terms of formats, SBS seeks “Formats that give us relevance. Having said that, we’re a commercial broadcaster so it should be fun as well.” Because income disparity in the Netherlands is quite significant, “We bought Rich House Poor House and made a local version, and ratings just crushed everybody else; it went thru the roof,” Hamaker declared.
“And for elderly people who are lonely, there is Around the World with 80-Year-Olds. It’s ratings are really good; we already ordered a second season.” So the main criteria for formats is relevant, but fun.
“We have a huge appetite,” said Thorp, whose Global Series Network gets about 1/3 of hits via mobile devices. “Northern European Crime Drama and crime thrillers are our stock and trade. But it’s not about the algorithm; it’s about what we love.”
He explained, “We’re happy to cut across different genres. We’re just looking for great stories and ideas at any stage in the production process. We have a very wide scope, but it’s essentially about those filters of quality, execution, storytelling.”
Lastly, for AMC Networks, De Troyer told attendees that the “majority of our members subscribe to another mainstream platform. We’re not there to be a replacement.”
Instead, “we’re trying to do something very specific very well—the whole spectrum of genre: Thrillers, mysteries, suspense, paranormal, sci fi, hororr, and high end entertainment for Sundance. If we do this well, we have a chance to build trust with members long-term. That’s what we’re about: Building brands long-term, creating a safe space that tells them ‘there’s something in it for me, I probably haven’t seen it anywhere else’.”
Genres are a point of AMC expertise; per De Troyer, they have specific codes. We understand that space really well. So we exclude low-rent stuff and focus on quality.”
Lastly, “a high level of exclusivity is very important to us,” she said. “It’s very taste-driven.”
Following the panel, each panelist got up to accept their World Screen Content Trendsetter Awards for excellence in their respective fields. Congratulations, masterminds!