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 new animated action-adventure series inspired by the pirate stories of Italian author Emilio Salgari. This 26 x 30-minute series for children age six to 12 follows young Yolanda as she protects the weak from the rogues who plunder the Caribbean.
Partners: BRB Internacional, Spain; RAI, Italy; Antena 3 TV, Spain
How the partnership began:
BRB Internacional of Spain, which has been looking for opportunities to diversify its client base in the Italian market, is in discussion with RAI of Italy regarding the possibility of working together on a series. Until recently, RAI has only acquired series from studios and production companies. Now it is seeking to develop its own projects.
Negotiations between BRB and RAI continue. Several concepts are put on the table, but it isn’t until RAI brings up Salgari’s Yolanda that the two parties find a property they agree could prove successful. For BRB, this is the chance to plant the seeds for a long-term partnership with RAI. ‘We hope, as we do with the rest of our co-producers, that this will be a starting point to produce other titles or shows based on RAI’s concepts or BRB’s concepts,’ says Ignacio Orive, director of new business developments for BRB.
The companies agree to produce a pilot, even though no formal partnership deal has been put in place.
RAI has two major concerns that it needs satisfied before progressing with the show’s development. First, it wants to guarantee that it is investing in a property that will make use of as much Italian talent as possible. Second, since the show is being developed from a book by an Italian writer, it wants Italian scriptwriters to adapt and develop the story. BRB, in turn, would provide its expertise in animation, distribution and commercialization of the series.
‘In the initial stages, we all collectively tried to decide which passages to take literally from the book and where to add new characters,’ says Orive. ‘That is where we all had to think together. Once the general plot and the cast of characters was agreed upon, the Italian scriptwriters went to work and we started to develop the animation.’
In November 1995, BRB inks a deal with Antena 3 TV in Spain to develop six animated series that will run on the network over the next three years. Yolanda becomes the fourth series in that agreement.
According to Orive, BRB strives to partner with both domestic and international co-producers because having streams of revenue from at least two different territories usually guarantees a major launch for a series and improves the potential for ancillary income such as merchandising revenue.
The partners still haven’t signed a formal co-production deal. Rather, they continue with their agreement to develop the story, episode concepts and the pilot script. The group plans to officially unveil a promo tape at MIP-TV. The tape is screened at Cartoons on the Bay in Italy just before MIP-TV.
In addition to bringing the promo tape and support materials to MIP-TV, the parties plan to discuss other aspects of the partnership, such as distribution. ‘Our arrangement is very open,’ says Orive. ‘We will decide distribution based on the strength of each partner in each respective territory. If that means BRB has to handle everything, fine. If not, we’ll find a middle ground.’
BRB is aiming for a September 1998 premiere and hopes that if the series proves popular, more episodes will be produced in the future.
Evaluating the partnership
Orive describes the partnership as ‘very promising’ and hopes that if things run as smoothly as they have until now, BRB and RAI will work together on future productions.
‘It’s pretty easy for us to understand the Italian mentality, because we consider Spanish and Italians pretty close to each other,’ says Orive. ‘We accepted from the very beginning the creative involvement of RAI, not only as a condition of the agreement, but also because we thought it was beneficial for the final product. In terms of the mechanical structuring of the deal and production itself, they’ve been relying on our experience. So we both focus on the parts of the job that we feel we are better at.’