MIPCOM Panel Spotlights Banijay’s Scripted Expertise


Christian Wikander, Alexia Laroche-Joubert and Dominique Farrugia spotlighted Banijay’s scripted ambitions and its approach to nurturing talent in a MIPCOM panel at Seaview Producers Hub moderated by TV Drama’s Mansha Daswani.

Banijay’s Scripted Success: Cultivating Creative Ambition featured Wikander, global head of scripted; Laroche-Joubert, CEO of Banijay France; and Farrugia, the managing director of Shine Fiction. In conversation with Daswani, editor-in-chief at TV Drama, they weighed in on navigating the challenges in the market while retaining a high creative bar.

Banijay produced some 130 scripted titles last year across its footprint. Wikander joined the company earlier this year and has been busy fostering creativity and collaboration across the 60-plus drama labels. “At Banijay, the center is about support. The loyalty of this whole group is to the producers, the creators. We have a scripted fund to help the labels take that extra step.”

Collaboration across the 60 labels can be challenging, Wikander noted, given that each is unique and has its own market positioning. “Banijay has an extra layer of being ahead of the curve because we bring the producers and creators together to share. It’s about sharing success, mistakes and learnings. It is collaborating, co-developing, co-producing. We do that by bringing them together. We use and facilitate the fact that we are a big group.”

Laroche-Joubert then discussed the positioning of Banijay France, which has produced global hits like the big-budget Marie Antoinette and daily dramas such as the local version of Skam. “We have a large footprint with a lot of talent,” she said. “We bet on talent,” and creatives can rest assured that Banijay “is here to last. Our [founding] shareholder is and was a producer. We are with [talent] for the long term. We will be helpful for the good years but also the bad years.”

Increasing its scripted output is a key focus for Banijay France, where the slate currently is mainly non-scripted. “We have a lot to progress, and we are going to invest in talent and probably M&A.”

Having the backing of a global entity like Banijay is a huge advantage. “We can produce all around the world and do co-productions. We can say to talent, If you want to be in touch with an English writer or a Dutch director, it is possible because we are in 22 countries, with 146 labels.”

Wikander also emphasized the global network, referencing Pokeepsie Films in Spain, which makes 30 Coins, and James Norton’s Rabbit Track Pictures. “We aim to continue to attract and be the best home for creators. Content and storytelling are here to stay. We aim to be the best home for that and to get these creatives to feel at home.”

On the disruptions in the market right now, Farrugia, whose Shine Fiction is housed under Banijay France, stressed the need to be in close contact with the commissioners. “You have to listen to what the commissioner wants.”

Clients, too, are adjusting to new conditions, “and sometimes we have to push them to adapt,” Laroche-Joubert added. “The main principle of all producers is to keep the IP inside our own company because it’s a lot of investment. The door was closed a few months ago, and now there’s a small open door that allows us to work more with the streamers.”

Banijay France also has strong ties with local broadcast groups like TF1 and France Télévisions.

“We try to be close to the commissioners everywhere,” Farrugia added, “to understand what they need in two years. This is the difficulty. It was very nice that the group understood I needed co-production initially to be very fast on the market. We co-produced two series, one for M6 and one for TF1, and we also have a TV movie for France Télévisions. And then we got five or six development deals.”

“We are platform-agnostic,” Wikander added. “On the central team, we try to stay close to the buyers from an international perspective. The slates need to be more agile than they used to be. It’s also important that we understand the audience. Where are they heading? What are their preferences? And not only trust that the buyers have this information. We need to understand to help the buyer’s weak spots and develop projects that appeal to certain groups.”

On working with creatives to ensure they execute their vision, Farrugia, who used to be a writer, said, “I have to be in sync with the showrunner or the head writer. You have to work closely with the writers and the commissioners and put everything together.”

Laroche-Joubert noted that streamers are also becoming more open to emerging talent. “There is a lack of writers. It’s our job to dig into new generations and help them to grow with us.”

Banijay is working on an initiative to foster a new generation of writers and development executives. “We need new voices and need to carry on with the established ones. We have the scripted fund, which is a possibility to take the first step without having a buyer attached. We can develop something and then go to the buyers. Buyers are looking for any reason to say no. How can we build an undeniable pitch?”

Laroche-Joubert added that Banijay Rights plays a crucial role in the process. “They put a lot of money in our series. Marie Antoinette, perhaps without the help of Banijay Rights, would not be on air. They know how the market will react to our series and can sell it, put money on the table and help make the deals possible.”

Production costs continue to escalate due to inflation and a squeeze on talent, crews and locations. “We don’t have the same money the Americans have,” Farrugia said. “Sometimes inflation is just, I have more money than you, so I’ll put more money on the table. That’s been the problem. It’s really difficult to stay on budget.”

Streamers not insisting on global rights is an opportunity, Wikander said. “The streamers are looking for the territories they need, which means for us as a producer the possibility, again, to keep some rights and co-finance and window. And what is better than belonging to a group with many labels? You can work together. You can reach a tax system with a production in another territory. There’s a lot we can do.”

The session wrapped with Wikander discussing the opportunities for more scripted formats from Banijay Rights’ stable of IP. “A couple of weeks ago, we had a scripted format exchange, bringing all the labels and producers together on Zoom. We highlighted six formats we think have the elements of being able to travel. In a landscape of buyers going more mainstream, they are looking for safety. A format can be one of those elements that can offer that.”