David Llewellyn-Jones joined Link as director of international sales in October 1995. Prior to that, he spent three years as head of sales at British news broadcaster ITN.
If he had any illusions that the children’s program market would be less frenetic than news and documentary, they were soon shattered. ‘I joined Link the week before MIPCOM,’ he says, ‘and they’d already arranged 70 appointments for me. You could say it was a quick learning curve.’
Llewellyn-Jones is not new to children’s programming. Early in his career, he worked for ATV Licensing, where he handled The Muppets, which, at that time, was being produced in London’s Elstree Studios.
Subsequently, he spent eight years at Lew Grade’s international film and television company ITC before joining U.K. distributor Central Television Enterprises. At CTE, Llewellyn-Jones rose to become head of European sales. This provided him with a range of experience across children’s, drama, documentary and feature films.
However, he admits that he found it difficult to understand how companies service program catalogues that run into thousands of hours. His subsequent move to producer/distributor VATV persuaded him that ‘in a smaller company, you can focus more clearly on the producers you represent. You can manage the program catalogue better.’
After three years at VATV, Llewellyn-Jones went to ITN before joining Link. He made the move because ‘Link had a good reputation, and I was pleased to get involved in mainstream programming again. And I’ve found them to be more focused than any company I’d previously worked for.’
At Link, Llewellyn-Jones is responsible for about 500 hours of programming, which he believes is a manageable amount. ‘In fact, I think we could accommodate quite a lot more.’
In a company like Link that is keen to exploit children’s property in as many ways as possible, it is important for the head of sales to be part of the overall direction of the company. Llewellyn-Jones says he sits in on regular new business meetings designed to evaluate the potential of Link’s properties.
Of the existing catalogue, he believes particularly promising properties include Childsplay’s Pirates, Aardman’s The Morph Files and Two Sides Television’s Bug Alert, which g’es out on GMTV this autumn.
However, he insists there are ‘real gems that continue to make good money, like Childsplay’s Eye of the Storm and Hibbert Ralph’s The Spider. With children’s programming, you can ensure greater repeat value than in other genres.’
Having been in the job nearly a year, he confirms a widespread belief that children’s distribution is something of a club. ‘I’d say that about three-quarters of the organizations I met in that first week at MIPCOM had previously had business relationships with us.’
If he has noticed a trend in his first year, it is that ‘we have become much more involved in the early stages of the production process. In the past, we tended to acquire completed programs, but now we are involved in developing scripts. That is a reflection of how we are expanding to become executive producers.’