The truism that ‘no two deals are ever the same’ has never been more accurate than in today’s climate of intricate production partnerships linking companies from around the world. The main feature in our MIP-TV special report traces the evolution of these partnerships through the complex deals that led to new children’s television shows that are now being marketed at MIP-TV. The report also includes a discussion with U.S. studios on television programming trends, as well as a glimpse into the television markets of Germany, England and France.
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A 52 x 30-minute animated series that chronicles the dramatic real-life adventures of the 19th-century Bavarian duchess, Elizabeth of Austria (nicknamed Sissi), who captures the heart of the soon-to-be ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the gallant young prince Franz-Joseph.
The legend of Sissi is well known in Europe, especially among girls, who have learned her tale through a trilogy of 1950s German films starring Romy Schneider. The films still draw huge television audiences today.
Princess Sissi is the working title.
Partners: Saban International Paris, France, ARD, Germany, France 3, France, RAI, Italy
How the partnership began:
Saban International Paris (SIP) is looking for a strong animated property that will appeal to girls, because the market clearly lacks one.
SIP focuses its attention on the legend of Princess Sissi, which has very high recognition not only in France, but in several major European territories, including Germany, Italy and Spain. As recently as 1994, the 1955 movie Sissi received a 52.5 audience share among viewers age four and up when it aired on France’s TF1 at Christmas. The name recognition and the popularity of the film made this story an obvious choice for an animated girl-targeted series.
Late 1995-Early 1996
As production plans begin to crystallize, SIP begins searching for partners to help finance the series. It plans to produce 52 episodes, which, according to SIP joint managing director Vincent Chalvon-Demersay, makes the show one of the largest co-productions ever launched from Europe.
In its search for partners, SIP concentrates on European companies. It approaches France 3, with positive results, and over the course of the next year, secures financing from Italy’s RAI and Germany’s ARD.
In the case of ARD, the partnership is part of a recently signed US$50-million production and distribution deal between SIP and ARD’s purchasing unit, Degeto Film, to co-produce six new series, totaling 182 half-hours. Also part of this deal are Jim Button, Walter Melon, The Night of Wishes, The Why Why Family and The Adventures of Oliver Twist. SIP will also supply ARD with 390 half-hours of new children’s programs.
Klaus Lackschewitz, president of Degeto Film, believes that with this partnership, they have found the best way of developing shows that fit ARD’s family programming needs.
Production on the series begins at SIP’s Paris studio.
Although all the partners have input, it is SIP’s job to take into account the views of the different partners and put together a strong, clear series bible to make sure all the partners are on the same page.
‘Sometimes the cultural differences are a problem,’ says Chalvon-Demersay. ‘But I think when the producer has a clear view of what they want to do and puts it clearly in the bible, everybody knows where they are going.’
SIP will bring a promo tape, as well as samples from its Sissi toy line, which will launch in conjunction with the series. The company is planning a huge licensing and merchandising campaign, and hopes to exploit the property in all territories as much as possible.
SIP will also be responsible for worldwide distribution. ‘We always try to keep distribution rights,’ says Chalvon-Demersay. ‘It’s something very important to us, and it’s good for the partners. Once you have worldwide distribution, it means that you can do worldwide marketing. And that’s what we have found works.’
The show is set to debut in Europe in October.
Evaluating the partnership
‘It is very positive,’ says Chalvon-Demersay. Because Sissi is so well known in Europe, there are very high expectations for the look and quality of the series. Chalvon-Demersay believes the series will be the standard to judge future girls animated action-adventure shows. Additionally, because all partners are in agreement, initial anxiety about the scope of the project has now turned to eagerness.