Five years ago when Teena Belling took an interest in cultivating the spontaneous springtime meetings of networks, studios and international buyers in what is known as the L.A. Screenings, fewer than 20 distributors attended. But in the next years, distributors at the L.A. Screenings grew in number to 40, then 80, then 110.
For Belling, who is convention services manager at the Century Plaza Hotel and Tower in Century City, California, the unofficial television market has exploded and her 1,000-room hotel, where most of the action takes place, is sold out for the late-May event.
‘Gosh,’ exclaims the woman who has become the de facto organizer of the L.A. Screenings. ‘What have we done? We’ve created a monster. This year, I am getting more calls than ever before from companies I’ve never heard of.’
The L.A. Screenings event has become another important market following on the heels of the television programming bazaars NATPE and MIP-TV. And with no formal convention, no registration fees and no dues, the L.A. Screenings is considerably less expensive.
For the Latin American countries especially, the L.A. Screenings is a key market, with television companies from Central and South America spending about 60 percent of their acquisitions budgets. With the currency crisis in the Far East, some Asian companies are attending the less expensive market as a way to keep a foothold in the international business and maintain contacts.
Television companies in Turkey, Russia, Belgium, Peru and Australia are making inquiries, says Belling. And the increased business means that the nearby Park Hyatt in Century City is becoming a satellite site for the screenings, delegate accommodation and networking events.
For the L.A. Screenings, Belling transforms about 400 Century Plaza hotel suites into screening rooms (by taking out the beds) where major studios and smaller independents show their new product to prospective buyers. ‘It just comes together,’ she says of the L.A. Screenings. ‘I can’t explain it.’
Children’s programming is a staple at the market, and companies such as Saban Entertainment, Hearst Entertainment and Salsa Distribution will have children’s product on display.
Building on the international sales success last year of its experiment with Desclez Productions’ animated preschool series Little Star, Discovery Channel is showing its first-ever slate of children’s programs. The slate includes the three-part Baby Animal Tales with Jake for preschoolers and, for older kids, the 10-part animal show Jaws & Claws and one-off, 50-minute program Extreme Machines for Kids.
‘The L.A. Screenings give us a chance to meet with Latin American broadcasters,’ says Steven Patscheck, senior manager of Latin America/Iberia program sales for Discovery. ‘The first draws are the screenings by the major studios, but with everyone in town, we take the opportunity to show our newer releases. The L.A. Screenings have become a lucrative market.’
Stan Golden, president of Saban International, says: ‘What keeps that market is timing. MIP-TV is mistimed since the studios don’t yet know what pilots have been picked up in the fall. In kids programming, that’s less of a problem, so we use the L.A. Screenings as a way of following up and concluding business.’
Because of its unofficial status, the L.A. Screenings event allows more time to build relationships with clients and explore co-production opportunities, says Golden.