Nadcon Film’s Peter Nadermann talks to TV Drama about his aim in setting up the company, the value of ZDF Enterprises’ investment and the current trends in international co-production.
After starting his career at ZDF, Peter Nadermann has built a lucrative career on driving international co-pros and pushing the global viability of Scandinavian series, having exec-produced The Killing, Arne Dahl, The Team and a slew of other hits. ZDF Enterprises recently bought out Constantin Film’s stake in Nadermann’s company, Nadcon Film, allowing him to accelerate his plans for cross-border European scripted productions.
WS: What was your aim when you set up Nadcon back in 2012?
NADERMANN: To produce very international, high-end quality TV series and movies, and with this perspective, do mostly international co-productions in the territories I like to work in—like Scandinavia and Spain—and other European countries. So to have a strong European voice that can compete with the very high-quality American shows. I’m always happy when, like with Millennium or The Killing, we manage to do something that can compete with these top American programs.
WS: You were at ZDF earlier in your career and worked with ZDF Enterprises (ZDFE) on The Killing. What has ZDF Enterprises’ investment in Nadcon meant for the company?
NADERMANN: To realize my ideas and projects I need a strong partner. I have a long and very successful history with ZDF Enterprises and [its president and CEO] Fred Burcksen. We know each other very well and they can support me when I’m moving on to new paths, while both sides profit from strong synergies.
WS: You’ve been a producer for a long time. In this landscape, why is it important to have an alliance with a distribution powerhouse like ZDF Enterprises?
NADERMANN: There is a lot of consolidation and globalization in the world of TV and movies and there is a danger that our TV market could become like the retail market. When you go to a shopping street nowadays, you see only the big brands. Even in Germany, digital sellers are getting stronger and stronger, and in the end you will have empty retail spaces and many smaller companies will be killed. That is the same everywhere. I want to remain as a creative, international boutique producer and in our times, you can only do this when you are connected to a bigger group. The TV business is one in which it’s not easy to earn money and there’s high risk. This is why I think it would be extremely difficult to do this alone, especially when you are as content-driven as I am. I’m very happy to have ZDF Enterprises as a strong partner on my side.
WS: What’s the key to making these kinds of joint ventures successful?
NADERMANN: The crucial thing in our business is communication. You should know your market. And you should know your partners. I know what the German market needs. And on the other side, I have my network with partners all over Europe and across the globe.
WS: Tell us about your development and pitching process. How are you responding to the needs of broadcasters and platforms?
NADERMANN: I like to create demand, and I want to surprise the market with something new that works. You have to convince channels that they should take some risks with you to move forward. You have to have a line of successes so that they trust you. That is very important. Again, good communication is required, so you know what your partner needs, and then maybe you can take your partner a step beyond. That’s my job. My job is not to fulfill the standard line; it’s always to find something new, like we found the Scandinavian style 10, 15 years ago. We are now doing a lot in Spain, which is one of the most exciting countries at the moment.
WS: How are you managing rising production costs while keeping the quality on-screen?
NADERMANN: We have a lot of promising talent, so the quality is there, but to compete, especially with the Americans—where they have budgets of $4 million or more per episode—we have to be more inventive. We find ways to tell our stories in an intelligent way with more reasonable budgets. With the financial possibilities we have in Europe, I try to find ways, with our top products, to be comparable to the big American shows. But on the other hand, I would always rather avoid shows that are, by definition, extremely expensive.
WS: What trends are you seeing in international co-production today?
NADERMANN: There will be hopefully more cooperation between the public broadcasters in Europe. I have said this for a long time: co-production is a possibility for Europe to compete with the big players. Otherwise, our budgets are too small and our content is too local. We need to work together a lot more. That already works very well in Scandinavia, Spain, France and Italy. With England, it’s always a bit more difficult because their focus is more on America. But the co-production is the simplest way to double your budget. Many TV executives are a bit afraid of it because they think they have to make too many compromises—but this happens mostly in bad co-productions. In a cool co-production, you learn from each other and that can make the program better. For example, German domestic shows have learned so much from the Scandinavian experiences we brought to Germany. You have to exchange, and you get better by exchanging. And the talent travels.
This interview was conducted prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Media companies are currently shifting their strategies in the wake of production postponements and economic trends.