Lorenzo De Maio, a partner and the head of the TV advisory at Endeavor Content, sat down with World Screen’s Anna Carugati at Series Mania’s Lille Transatlantic Dialogues today to discuss how the company is pursuing new opportunities in the global television landscape.
Endeavor Content began life as a “sales and financing-driven outfit, working with producers to optimize the path towards making and selling their shows,” De Maio said. “Now Endeavor Content [works] across film, TV, nonfiction—the role is still to work with creatives, artists and producers, to really find the best path to maximize ownership, financial upside, creative control and to allow them to bring their projects to screen.”
In his role, De Maio is working with producers in launching and expanding their companies, raising financing, finding IP, packaging and sales. In the U.S., the company has sold big co-pros like Top of the Lake and The Night Manager. He also works with Endeavor’s production and international-sales arms.
“There are definitely massive changes happening in the industry,” De Maio said of the content landscape today. “Media consolidation has accelerated further and further. More and more global platforms are launching. Everyone does have to buckle in and get ready for this massive change. Change always creates incredible opportunity. The opportunity we see is there’s an incredible demand for high-level content. If you are a producer that can access valuable content that can become something that is competitive in the marketplace, the rewards are massive. And if you can navigate this complex marketplace, which is not easy, you really can retain a lot of the upside. Having said that, there are some big challenges. Producers are facing more competitive pressures than ever. Even the SVOD buyers are going to start becoming more selective about the suppliers. That is a big challenge. They will look to trusted partners that can guarantee the kind of output that can sustain their platforms. And the rights, of course—the traditional approach of retaining ownership for producers and benefiting from the long-term tail of ownership is changing. Navigating that is a real challenge for producers.”
Endeavor Content is looking to aid producers as they cope with these changes. “Grabbing the first opportunity to get your show made or financed [doesn’t always] optimize the outcome and the longevity of the producer and the producer’s company. It affects earnings and company value. So we’re being more thoughtful and really working with the producers from the beginning. The old days of, here are five actors that are valuable all over the world, are gone. You have to be much more subtle in understanding the needs of the local and global audiences. You have to be more tailored. When you make choices about the partners you go with, that will greatly affect how the project will be taken to market.”
De Maio referenced Killing Eve as a good example of how Endeavor Content works with producers. “Killing Eve was conceived as a British show, to be sold to an English broadcaster. That did not work out, as sometimes is the case. Sid Gentle, the production company, decided to open it up and approach the global market. We were following the project for a long time. It was called Villanelle at the time. Both leads were written as British. It was a fairly small project. The producers went to the U.S. and were able to get BBC America on board. A significant part of the budget was still missing. I think they had 30 days to come up with the rest of the financing. That’s the moment you have to decide, are you going to go with a traditional distribution outfit or break the mold in terms of how you sell it? We invested in it, the producers were able to go straight to greenlight and production. The producers were able to focus on what they wanted to focus on, which was making a great show. We were able to take care of the financing and eventually sold the show all over the world. It went on to great success, financially and creatively.”
Carugati asked De Maio about the company’s approach to co-productions. “It’s one of the best times to be doing co-productions,” De Maio noted. “Even though on the surface it feels like it’s all global rights and global SVODs. And of course, that is happening in a big way. We’re doing multiple shows with Netflix, Amazon, Apple. Co-productions can still be incredibly powerful when they are rooted in their own territory and meaningful to their own territory. For us, the key is finding the elements that are valuable in that marketplace and building it with thought at the beginning. What is the IP that resonates with [a local] buyer and can transcend boundaries? What are the casting elements that respect the vision of the show but are also drivers internationally?”
On non-English-language programming, De Maio noted that it’s “potentially in the greatest moment ever in terms of global reach. Some of the credit has to be given to the global SVODs. Especially in the U.S., they reeducated audiences. I grew up in Italy and never heard the real voice of Robert De Niro! In the U.S. dubbing someone was impossible. Now so many people are completely comfortable watching a German series, subtitled or dubbed.”
The conversation then moved to the emerging studio-backed SVOD services. “All the major media companies are looking to create ‘walled gardens’—ecosystems that are self-contained. That trend will continue. The opportunity happening now is that these media companies won’t be selling as much to each other. Yet they need more and more shows. They need to quadruple their output quickly. These platforms can’t live off catalog. By needing all this content and not selling as much to each other, that creates an opportunity for producers.”