FOX Entertainment Global’s Tony Vassiliadis

FOX Entertainment Global (FEG) has an expanding collection of comedies, non-scripted hits and extensive slate of TV movies, a catalog that is allowing the company to deliver targeted solutions for channels and platforms entering the FAST space. Tony Vassiliadis, executive VP of FEG and COO of its prolific production unit MarVista Entertainment, tells World Screen Weekly about how the company is approaching this booming segment of the business.

***Image***WS: How is FOX Entertainment Global approaching the FAST space?
VASSILIADIS: We’re looking at content sales on a global scale. Our focus has been on how we can help local and international FAST platforms program effectively. Our goal is not necessarily to launch a whole host of FAST channels; it’s to work with those launching FAST channels to provide content and leverage our expertise as an organization. Fox Corporation has FOX Entertainment, which programs a network, and Tubi, which has deep knowledge of content that works in the AVOD space. We can be impactful with international buyers in the FAST space by helping provide content tailored to AVOD. We’re bringing a thoughtful approach as fellow programmers, taking the learnings from how we program at the network and bringing all of that together to help FAST channels succeed in their endeavors.

WS: How do TV movies, which you have a deep well of from the MarVista Entertainment acquisition, play in the FAST space?
VASSILIADIS: TV movies are well designed for FAST channels. After the FOX acquisition, much of the MarVista focus has moved to creating content for Tubi, and we have turned the dial differently on the MarVista side to think about what works in the AVOD space—though MarVista continues to produce for other platforms, as well. What’s great about FAST is that it’s an organic way to onboard viewers into AVOD. People are familiar with it; it’s relatable to linear. The barrier to entry is pretty low; you just put on a channel, and you don’t have to worry about searching. We’re very happy that FAST is helping get more people comfortable with AVOD. TV movies work great because they have two important things for FAST channels: volume and similar themes. You’re not bouncing between various genres because you’re trying to create a destination in a specific theme with a particular affinity. We have several threads of TV movies in different genres, so we can help, whether that’s romance, thriller, true crime or holiday, design packages of content that will feed a FAST channel.

Tubi has an incredible algorithm that understands viewing habits and human behavior and then takes you through from content to content to content. A FAST channel is a curated way of showing you a set of content you would hope most people would want to watch in sequence. Leveraging the Tubi algorithm has informed what original films we can produce for them. We’re then able to bring those same packages of content that are influenced by that algorithm to the international marketplace.

WS: Where does FAST fit into the distribution sequence for your titles? Is this still primarily a back catalog, library play?
VASSILIADIS: For the most part, it will be back catalog. The FAST market hasn’t matured enough internationally to justify the price points we would want to see for something that’s in an earlier window. But there are many creative ways to use FAST, like a pop-up holiday channel where the avails are only for four to six weeks. You can do a short-term license or even a rev-share and then bring it down and take it in a different way next year. We’re open and creative around that. The most important thing for FAST is experimenting because consumers are still figuring out how they want to use it, while platforms are still learning what excites consumers. There are thousands of FAST channels. Some platforms are saying they need to cull that down for the consumers, who are in charge. Where I would like FEG to play a role with our clients is to be a partner in how we help them educate consumers. A fundamental tenet of FOX Entertainment Global is to be thoughtful partners to our buyers. We’re selling content, but we’re also programming a network and an AVOD platform. We know a lot of the challenges that our clients face. We want to help figure things out, be creative in our dealmaking and experiment in some cases.

WS: Are you mainly operating on a traditional license-fee model or a revenue-share?
VASSILIADIS: We’ve typically operated on a license-fee model, though are increasingly analyzing where to pursue a rev-share, especially as we get into deeper relationships with some of these clients. We want to be committed partners in helping them grow their businesses in local markets. Fundamentally, FOX is an ad-supported business. It’s a world we’re very comfortable in and understand well. We want to be able to support our partners internationally who are based on a similar business. Our content lends itself so well to that. A license fee is great because it reduces our risk, but as FAST grows, we want to be on the cutting edge, looking at where we can create smart and unique partnerships with our clients where we both capitalize on the upside.

WS: The U.S. FAST landscape is dominated by connected-TV providers and the AVOD platforms. As the business grows internationally, do you see your longstanding traditional clients, the free-to-air broadcasters, having a more significant role in the business?
VASSILIADIS: I think so. FAST is helpful for the consumer in two ways: discovery and affinity. You will probably find a few things that you like. That affinity needs to be curated by what makes sense in a local market. It’s great to have big brands with FAST channels globally, but there will always be a space for what makes sense on a local level. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be all local content; it just has to be what makes sense for its audience. There will always be a place for the local players to program FAST channels because they have a competitive advantage in understanding what the viewership is interested in. That’s a place we are very comfortable in. We do not have a global streamer, and Tubi’s current focus is on specific territories. We can be open-minded in how to leverage our content—both content that we know is delivering viewership on our network and content for Tubi that is targeted to specific audiences—and partner with the buyers who are looking at AVOD targeted to their territories.

WS: How has the response been to FEG since the MIPCOM launch in 2022?
VASSILIADIS: We found a lot of excitement for the return of FOX to the global marketplace. Several clients have come forward and talked about how FOX programming and its boldness historically helped build their channels and contribute to their viewership. We want to deliver to those clients and continue the story of FOX helping to grow many of these international broadcasters. We see animation as a place people look to us for, such as KrapopolisGrimsburg and animated movies, all from Bento Box. We have a lot of unscripted content from our in-house units Studio Ramsay Global and FOX Alternative Entertainment as well, like Next Level ChefThe Masked SingerSnake Oil and FOX’s newest hit, We Are Family.