Alexandra Heidrich, Global Screen’s head of acquisitions and sales for international TV and SVOD, talks to TV Drama about trends in the market and how the company is working with producers to get projects off the ground.
Earlier this month, TELEPOOL-owned Global Screen shored up the rights to Amber Alert, a Canadian thriller produced by Pixcom for TVA, diversifying its strong slate of predominantly European drama series. Other new offerings from Global Screen this spring include A Good Year from Belgium, Turbulent Skies from the Netherlands and Dark Woods from its home turf of Germany.
TV DRAMA: What financing models are you using with producers?
HEIDRICH: We have different models. Our huge acquisition department is not just looking for MG deals; we do the full range of financing. We are an all-in-one partner with financing, production, world sales and distribution. So, we have to be very flexible and look at each project individually. We step in at a very early stage. We have projects from Seriencamp in Munich, where writers pitch their ideas. Sometimes if a one-pager fascinates us, we finance the development of the first script or the concept. Sometimes people come to us with a bible and the first script, and they just need co-development money. From A to Z, we do whatever is necessary to finance a production. It all depends on the project.
TV DRAMA: What qualities do you look for in projects?
HEIDRICH: It has to be a stand-out idea. It has to be an authentic story, no matter where it comes from. You have to have an emotional bond with the characters right away. And, of course, a sophisticated script that has a multilayered narrative.
In the past, we were focusing on German content, and everyone thought shows had to be in English to sell worldwide. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter where a series comes from. There are some impressive concepts from the CEE region that were pitched to us. We’re curious to see how many of them will be produced and travel the world within the next few years. There are so many good ideas coming from all over the world.
We often get asked what genres we’re looking for. We have clients that are only looking for romantic stories. Others are looking for crime stories. I’ve seen some exciting horror and high-concept supernatural series. So it’s not really about the genre; it’s about the story.
TV DRAMA: And do you see equal demand for long-running series and limited event productions?
HEIDRICH: There’s still a mixed demand. I recently read that 2020 could be the year of miniseries. They have strong appeal to audiences worldwide. I think we will see more limited series, but the long-running shows are still very popular and very profitable for the broadcasters. It always depends on the story, of course. For some territories, especially Eastern Europe, they are looking for long-running, episodic series, not horizontal serialized storytelling. We are looking for those, but they are harder to find! When people come to us and pitch us their ideas, it seems like 95 percent are horizontal, and the rest are episodic storytelling. If we can’t find them out there, we just have to produce them ourselves.
TV DRAMA: How have your windowing strategies evolved?
HEIDRICH: In the past, it was quite obvious: you had a series and you knew precisely if this was something for free TV or pay TV or a platform. Nowadays, when I look at our clients, even the free-TV channels, they have become much more courageous. We have to look very carefully at each project and make a strategy. Do we sell it territory by territory or go with a streamer first and then the second window on free TV? Or go the other way around? You have to look very closely at each project to make sure you find the right windowing.
TV DRAMA: With the Hollywood studios retaining more content for their SVOD services, do you see new opportunities opening up for companies like yours?
HEIDRICH: No one knows what’s going to happen next, but we think it’s positive for us. It gives us huge opportunities.
TV DRAMA: What are the other factors you see influencing the drama business in the 12 months ahead?
HEIDRICH: I think the streamers will have more local productions and will set the trends for next year. We have to look out for the original local productions from the streamers and see how they change the habits and the tastes of viewers. That, of course, changes our strategy for what we have to acquire. Also, short-form and snackable content is trending. This seemed to be something for the younger generation, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. As a distributor, we’re still trying to analyze if we can make a financial success with short-form. This is something we’ve been discussing for a while.
TV DRAMA: What can you tell us about your co-production strategy?
HEIDRICH: Our co-production department has been working on very interesting projects. TELEPOOL has been co-producing theatrical films for quite some time, but we were not that active in co-producing TV series. Now there are a lot of things happening in terms of co-production. It’s changing our business here at TELEPOOL and Global Screen, having our own IP and not only being an MG-deal distributor anymore.
This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic. All media companies are currently shifting their strategies in the wake of production postponements.