At NATPE Budapest this morning, executives from Eccho Rights, Nutopia and 3Vision shared their thoughts on co-productions in the current TV landscape and the impact of streamers in the marketplace today.
“We all know there’s a huge amount of change in the market at the moment, in how people are doing things, what’s happening with media consolidation in the world, how big is better, how direct to consumer is better, how online is better, but there’s still a great traditional business out there as well,” said Jack Davison, managing consultant at 3Vision, an international content consultancy firm. “This is feeding into the content market, with SVODs growing hugely, pay TV fighting back, free TV pivoting a bit and doing more digital. All of this [creates] incredible amounts of competition. We see production budgets going up, we see more volume, we see more local production, we see people who haven’t been producing content now producing content.” He pointed to large pay-TV groups like Sky, NENT Group and Spain’s Telefónica. “They’re all investing huge amounts, and they, as well as the streamers, have different kinds of calculations when they’re working out return on investment. With all of this, and with all of the extra money being spent, you still have to make a project work.”
He noted that 3Vision spends a lot of time trying to find out what the trends are, and “I can certainly say that there is no ‘normal’ anymore. It’s very hard to come up with what a typical project in co-production looks like, because, quite frankly, they all look very different.”
Handan Özkubat, the director of Turkish drama at Eccho Rights, said that regarding scripted, “Producers don’t want to take risks anymore” in funding a large percentage of the budgets, especially in emerging markets. “They don’t want to risk that much. So, as a distributor, we have been trying to find different models for how we can support drama. This year, for the first time ever, we have started to invest in projects. We started with a Turkish series, Wounded Birds. We are the co-financing partner. Being in the co-production, we are sharing IP and different stuff.” This is a new model for the territory, she said. “I haven’t seen in the Balkans this kind of model, where a distributor gets in and starts to invest, as the advertising revenues aren’t as high as before.”
So, rather than picking up the distribution rights for a completed drama, Eccho Rights has decided to get in right at the start. “In emerging markets, people don’t want to invest a lot. In the Balkans, it’s very hard to get proper advertising budgets for the channels. So, distributors, producers, broadcasters, we have to all put our hands in this.”
Özkubat sees great potential for neighboring countries in this part of the world to come together for co-productions and co-financing. “It will make everyone’s lives easier!”
From a factual-programming point of view, Ben Goold, executive producer at Nutopia, has observed shifts in the co-production market over the last decade, notably for high-end, premium factual. “Ten or twelve years ago, co-production was very important on big projects—thinking of projects the scale of Planet Earth, they are global television [events]. Unlike with drama, ‘co-production’ wasn’t necessarily a dirty word. In factual, on those big universal subjects, it was almost impossible to make something that really works globally for all those territories [without it], and our market is to find those universal subjects. Then things changed,” particularly in the U.S. cable landscape, as channel groups like Nat Geo and A+E began to roll their networks out internationally. “They became very rights-hungry and wanted to [own things] outright. That had a real impact on us. It also meant that on the high end of premium, budgets were going up.”
For example, Nutopia recently undertook what Goold credited as one of its most expensive projects, One Strange Rock, produced in collaboration with Hollywood filmmaker Darren Aronofsky and hosted by Will Smith. “We felt that we were reaching the peak of the budgets of specialist factual,” he said. “Now things are changing again. We are seeing even with the streamers, but also with U.S. cable, that suddenly the competition is leading to all sorts of changes. In the last year, people have realized that co-production is going to be important again in that market. We’re not entirely sure which way it’s going or how that’s going to play out, but it’s definitely going to be a trend from this year onward.” He mentioned that Nutopia had not been co-producing much in the last few years, but is now back in the market.