The experts speak: Market heat making waves

Debbie Back
October 1, 2005

Debbie Back

Senior VP of international program sales, MTV Networks International

While the kids programming market remains highly competitive, it’s no longer about vying for limited slots on terrestrial networks or extensive windowing deals on cable and satellite to counter limited distribution and satisfy the ancillary needs of today’s kids properties. Digital platforms provide equal distribution, making the playing field more level, and right now deals are negotiated in a more holistic way to leverage every asset. As broadcasters expand their own operations to include websites, licensing & merchandising and other multimedia businesses, deals need to add value for clients across all these platforms.

Miles Bullough

Head of broadcast and development, Aardman Animations

Buyers now want new media rights included in their deals, even though the definitions and exploitation strategies for those rights are sometimes vague. Having said that, our discussions with public service broadcasters for Shaun The Sheep have been perfectly civilized. The appearance of new kids channels in the U.K., Germany and elsewhere has stimulated the market, and rather than closing down options, the competition is proving to be key to avoiding punitive deal terms.

Neil Court

Partner/executive producer, Decode Entertainment

I’ve always said that the worst thing is having a show you can’t sell, but the next worst thing is having a show that everyone wants. TV markets are picking up, and we’ve recently dealt with multiple offers and ensuing auctions for key titles in large territories. France, Australia and Latin America are probably the most dynamic markets, but even German buyers are becoming competitive now!

We’ve never had a broadcaster threaten to shut us down if we didn’t sell them a show, and I can’t imagine that ever happening. In a multi-offer situation, what’s important is to let everyone know what the rules are, and to be clear that they’re the same for everyone. Term and rights being equal, the amount of the license fee is really the only fair and impartial measure of who gets our show. Having said that, it is possible that we’d take a lesser bid if we had a really strong merchandising property and the smaller offer came with iron-clad commitments from the best broadcaster to promote and market a show.

Sam Ewing

Senior VP of sales and distribution, Cookie Jar Entertainment

Going in, you never know what you have until the numbers start to take off and all the broadcasters are calling you to get that ‘magic.’ Of course, you want to maximize the license fees and place your series where it has the most exposure, but it’s the relationships with the broadcasters that you’ve established over the years – especially the lean years – that really count. That doesn’t change.

Charles Falzon

Co-chairman, CCI Entertainment

Many of the larger broadcasters now look at their prime properties as potential franchises, and as direct and tangible links to the lifestyle of their audience. This means that program executives often want to have direct input into the development of the series, when possible. It also means that negotiations on windows and financial participation can become onerous and, at times, unmanageable. But with the right properties and partners, it’s worth it.

Ignacio Orive

President, Elastic Rights

This more ‘heated’ market is very good news for property owners as we come out of three somewhat slow years in the Iberian market. A decade ago, the networks started expanding their broadcast businesses into home video and merchandising, forcing certain property owners to leave several buckets of rights behind when selling the TV rights. These days, networks are demanding the rights to almost all present and future platforms/means of distribution beyond TV, such as the internet and cell phones, just to be ready for the next generation of screens. And TV buyers in Spain and Portugal are responding to the strategy of creating a marketing platform for each property. They are more interested in a show if they know that it’s being supported by an integrated brand management campaign, which will add value across all platforms.

Daniel Marks

Managing director, Viz Media B.V.

In Europe, broadcasters are demanding more input in non-TV activities such as merchandise, music, interactive and wireless. This is forcing distributors to make strategic brand decisions early in the development process. So it’s getting harder to formulate strategies because you have to make decisions quicker and earlier, and you don’t have the opportunity to wait and see how a brand will really develop before picking partners. There’s no breathing room for a property to develop on either the owner’s or the buyer’s side.

Renee Mascara

VP of international television distribution, Sesame Workshop

One of the main challenges for us is that preschool time slots are being cut in favor of older-skewing shows for ages nine to 12. It encourages us to be more creative with the content and formats we produce and distribute. Another trend is that broadcasters are negotiating for additional rights that include ancillary businesses such as VOD and website content. Sesame Workshop actually looks at the VOD platform as a separate feed, and with time, we hope there will be a consistent view of what broadcast rights are considered traditional.

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