In this series of articles leading up to MIPCOM 2019 we hear views from executives around the world on the changing face of the international distribution industry. In our latest blog, Andy Fry talks to NTV general producer Timur Weinstein. Weinstein joined leading Russian commercial channel NTV from the independent sector, where he was responsible for producing more than 200 TV projects, most of which aired in primetime on major Russian TV channels. Before joining NTV as general producer, he established two production companies: Lean-M, which was bought by Sony Pictures Television International and WeiT Media, which was partnered by another global giant Endemol Shine Group.
MIPBlog: Tell us about your role at NTV
Timur Weinstein: NTV is the largest channel in the Russian market, designed for a wide audience. As a general producer, I’m in charge of the production of all the channel’s content. We produce a large number of action-packed series, about 50 per year. Also, some of them, such as Brass Sun, have become known outside Russia. Among entertainment formats, top performers have included Secret For A Million and SuperYou!. We also have a hit line of lifestyle projects making NTV the leader on weekends; they are also of great interest to CIS region buyers.
> What kind of scripted content works best for NTV audiences?
NTV is a recognised leader in action-packed TV series; we have a huge library, about 20,000 hours. There are both long projects, 200+ episodes, and short ones. The audience knows that they come to us for quality, action-packed, but diverse stories. Every season, we produce about 20 new series, some of which, such as Dinosaur and Dr. Driver became the best TV events of the week. Currently, original projects by NTV reflect the topical subject of female leads; for example the chief characters of The Crow and Beyond Death are played by star actresses. We also make adaptations. We have had successful premieres of the Russian version of the Swedish-Danish mystery The Bridge and US series Shameless. We also adapted Korean mystery hits as well as the French action format Gold, with the Russian version of The Good Wife premiering this fall.
> What has changed as audiences become used to online/on-demand?
NTV’s content works perfectly on the channel’s website and our YouTube channel, having about 6.5 million subscribers. We have also collaborated with other platforms. NTV was the first in Russia to release a series in two versions, online and TV. The full version of In The Cell. a series about MMA, had been released on Start.ru a few months before it premiered on TV. This project has brought a huge number of new subscribers to the channel. OKKO (streaming service) users will be the first to see our series Escapade before the TV premiere. The thriller Beyond Death was among the top three catch up series on ivi.ru.
> What is the next big thing likely to impact on your business?
Today, more than a third of Russian viewers have TV sets with internet access and interactive opportunities are penetrating the traditional screen. Such changes require changes in the business. NTV is building a strategy aimed, among other things, at digital transformation of the channel. We’re also planning to actively distribute content all over the world to various platforms.
> What kid of distribution activity are you involved in currently?
NTV has its own distribution department actively promoting our content abroad and we also work with global distributors such as Dori Media, Keshet International, Banijay, Armoza Formats, Endemol Shine, Global Agency.
> Does distribution feel like a healthy business for NTV? Is the distribution business alive and well?
In the first half of 2019, we’ve already exceeded the sales figures of the previous year by 20%. NTV’s content is successfully distributed and presented on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Bilibili (a Chinese online platform), and TenTime in MENA. One of the most important markets for us is the CIS. The share of our series hit Nevsky on Channel One Eurasia in Kazakhstan reached 40%.
> Do universal themes and ideas make the distribution process easier? Does this affect the kind of content you create?
On the one hand, Russia is interesting for its history. We have a screen adaptation of the historical novel The Road to Calvary by Alexei Tolstoy which has been purchased by Netflix. On the other hand, the key to a project’s success with the global audience is a universal idea that provides opportunities for adaptation. We constantly look for ideas that can be implemented anywhere.
> Do you see co-production as a growth area for you?
We are just entering the coproduction market, and it’s important for us to find a story that would be interesting to the audience in different territories. And here language is of key importance. Russian viewers prefer watching the original projects in the Russian language to English-language content.
> How does Russian TV compare around the world?
I’m sure that Russian television is among the world’s top five in all respects, including quality. The competition is really strong and it stimulates TV channels to work for quality. At NTV, we have already passed the period of adaptations and reached a new level of co-producing; I’m talking about the Drive Master car talent show we developed with Keshet International. We have enough expertise to build the format of the show, invent spectacular and performable stunts, engage stars both as hosts and guests, ensure safety on the production set and, finally, build big production hubs, such as the one for Drive Master. This is a fundamental breakthrough for us and for the entire Russian industry.
> What will you focus on at MIPCOM?
The projects we will focus on include: Wolf Trap, Shadow Behind, Reluctant Hero, Dinosaur, Shepherd, SuperYou!, Drive Master and Secret for a Million.