Vanessa Shapiro, Gaumont’s president of worldwide TV distribution and co-production, talks about the nuances of bringing projects together, windowing and more with TV Drama.
Production has kicked off on the fifth chapter of Narcos, and Gaumont will be licensing the linear rights for all five seasons at MIPTV. The company’s slate for the market also includes the thriller Murder in Lisieux, produced for France 3, and The Art of Crime, which has been greenlit for a third season. Co-productions are key to the company’s growth strategy, and Gaumont is looking forward to starting principal photography on its first Latin American co-pro, El Presidente.
TV DRAMA: How are you working with creatives inside the group and third parties to bring projects together?
SHAPIRO: Working with the sister companies within Gaumont, we distribute the content they produce. For example, we license the television rights for Narcos, produced by Gaumont Television U.S. and both The Art of Crime and NOX, produced by Gaumont Television France. So anytime there is an internal production, Gaumont handles the distribution, as is the case with most studios. We work very closely with the production team at an early stage, providing sales estimates and sometimes presales to raise the financing.
I’ve been heavily involved since last year on the sourcing of projects we can co-produce with third-party production companies. Our first project coming out of this development and financing effort is a show that was announced by Amazon for their 2019 slate called El Presidente. This is the first co-production in Latin America for Gaumont. We have numerous series in development and we are open to coming on board projects at various stages. We prefer to come in at the co-development stage, where we are full partners and co-production partners from day one and co-developing and sharing the costs along the way. We’ve found that by the time content is already produced, there’s normally a distribution company attached, so, to get great content that fits with our clients’ needs and what we’re looking for, we have to come in as early as possible. And in some cases, we will develop our own content—I’m a distributor, but I can bring my creative team and co-develop with other production companies.
TV DRAMA: How do you craft a windowing strategy for each title? How do you weigh a global SVOD deal against a territory-by-territory rollout?
SHAPIRO: In general, the content drives where it’s going to be and when, but of course, there are always exceptions! [OTT and pay] platforms prefer serialized series. So, when we develop content that will be more premium, edgier and serialized, the platforms are a main target. When developing a procedural, like The Art of Crime, that would be a broadcast play. At every stage, we always have in mind who the end buyer is going to be, a broadcaster or a platform. When we develop a concept and start shopping it around, we’re very mindful of how each show will travel and where it should live.
We’re not going to pitch a serialized horror show to a free-TV broadcaster, for example.
TV DRAMA: How has the second window rollout on Narcos progressed?
SHAPIRO: [We started introducing it] at NATPE last year. The TV linear rights are becoming available at the end of this year. We’ve sold Narcos all over Latin America, Italy, France, Central and Eastern Europe, Africa. We have been amazed at the brand recognition of the show. And while we expected Narcos to be the number one show in Latin America, we couldn’t have anticipated its success in other countries—for example in India and Malaysia, where it was the number one most in-demand show! The global success of Narcos is exciting. That’s why it’s translated very successfully for free-TV sales so far. And we’re not done yet!
TV DRAMA: Are broadcasters more flexible about the rights they need?
SHAPIRO: It depends on how much they want the show. The more they want something, the more flexible they are! It’s becoming extremely complicated, especially when you sell a show post a Netflix window. We are competing with a major platform available to 130 million-plus subscribers worldwide. It’s huge. So, we’re looking for creative ways to make, rebrand or repackage the content to make it unique to a channel. For instance, in the case of Narcos, the original version is 50-50 Spanish and English. Now, we’re dubbing the whole series in local languages (English, Spanish, French) for free-TV broadcasters, where audiences might not want to read subtitles. We’re doing that with all our shows, looking for the angle that will make us different from other available content. We work very closely with our marketing team, and do a lot of research on what our buyers and their audiences want. Also, in the U.S., things change extremely quickly. A year ago I would have said that SVOD is exploding, and now it’s plateauing and we are seeing the growth of the AVOD platforms. It’s going to be interesting to see where that will go.
TV DRAMA: What impact do you see the OTT talent deals having on the broader distribution ecosystem?
SHAPIRO: We have to differentiate ourselves because there is so much content available. Everyone, platforms and channels alike, are looking for big names because that’s what audiences respond to. We are no different. Big name talent, especially A-list actors with international appeal, are very important. And within the industry, packaging a good director is also important to sell a show. You have to differentiate yourself from the rest of the content. That’s why producers are making all of these huge talent deals.
TV DRAMA: How are you sourcing new talent?
SHAPIRO: Gaumont Television U.S. has done a lot of first-look deals with different talent, for instance with Chris McQuarrie, the director of the Mission: Impossible franchise, that’s huge. On the co-pro side, El Presidente is a very good example. The series is a co-production with Fabula, the company set up by the famous Chilean director Pablo Larraín, best known for [producing] A Fantastic Woman, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2018. Having talent attached is very important to the success of a series.
TV DRAMA: Will the studios holding content back for their own direct-to-consumer services create more opportunities for companies like Gaumont?
SHAPIRO: It should. Because all of a sudden, platforms will not have access to content from Disney or Warner. We will see that happening very soon. But how many platforms can you subscribe to, as a consumer?