Gaumont’s Vanessa Shapiro

Vanessa Shapiro, Gaumont’s president of worldwide TV distribution and co-production, talks to World Screen about the company’s strategy for the Americas.

The critically acclaimed Netflix original Narcos leads off Gaumont’s slate for NATPE this week, with the drama being offered to the linear-TV market for the first time. Shapiro is excited to showcase the series, particularly to the company’s Latin American clients. Indeed, boosting Gaumont’s presence in the Americas as a whole is among Shapiro’s main priorities for this year.

WS: Tell us about the strategies you put in place when you joined Gaumont a year ago to expand its international television distribution activities.
SHAPIRO: The first thing I did was build a new distribution team, including marketing, acquisitions and operations. In 2017, we announced that we hired three new salespeople. Based in the Paris office and covering EMEA we have Cécilia Rossignol, VP of international sales for drama series; Laura Laas, who is focused on kids’ programming and animation; along with Anthony Reboul as sales manager. Just now, we announced two new VPs for the Americas: Ezequiel Olzanski (VP of Latin America TV distribution and co-production) based in Argentina and Mathilde Rottier (VP of U.S./Canada TV sales) based in L.A. We now have the whole world covered.

We spent a lot of time in 2017 scouting all the opportunities available on the co-production and acquisition side for TV series, specifically scripted. We were able to acquire some finished series for international distribution, including Hetty Feather from CBBC, and we did a deal with Verizon’s go90 for Milo Ventimiglia’s (This Is Us) series Relationship Status.

WS: What sorts of things have you been looking for to complement Gaumont’s own production slate?
SHAPIRO: We are looking for series for worldwide distribution that are compelling, creative and that can sit next to Narcos and the rest of our productions. On the distribution, co-pro and co-development side, we’ve been looking for serialized scripted series, mostly drama (comedy doesn’t travel as well internationally). We found great projects that we’re developing right now with production partners. We have two out of Canada, one out of Mexico, one out of Chile. You will hear about all of these projects in the first part of 2018.

WS: You’re heading to NATPE with Narcos. What are your plans for that show on the international market?
SHAPIRO: Everybody knows the series, as it’s been very successful on Netflix. We are currently in production on season four, which will be on Netflix in 2018. For the first time, we are now able to offer the linear television rights worldwide and are launching the TV distribution rights for the series at NATPE. A lot of people are very excited about it. We’re getting a great response from the marketplace!

WS: What opportunities are you finding in Latin America?
SHAPIRO: Latin America is a little bit of a challenge for everyone. If you’re not there, on the ground and speaking the language, it can be a difficult market to crack. We want to do a big push in the market and focus not only on sales of our current content but also scout opportunities for co-productions and co-development of series in the Spanish language.

WS: What other areas of growth are you pursuing?
SHAPIRO: As Gaumont, the oldest film company in the world, we have a more mature business in Europe. My goal is to expand our presence in the U.S. and Latin America. That’s why I’ve appointed two new people to focus on the Americas. We’ve identified a number of TV projects that I would like to release for distribution in 2018 and 2019. My team in L.A. is also focusing its efforts on working with international production partners (mostly Canadians or Latin Americans) in order to secure worldwide distribution rights at very early stages of the development process. My goal is to have three to five new series in the pipeline from our acquisition/co-production efforts, which will be in addition to our U.S. commissioned productions (like Narcos). The overall goal is to grow the television business. We are a very well-established company, but we want to make our content offering and TV catalog bigger.