Sovtelexport has been representing Russia’s largest media company, Russia Television and Radio, in the international content distribution market for over 20 years. “Major industry players trust our vast experience in the field and impeccable reputation,” says Julia Matyash, director of Sovtelexport. “Our wide multi-genre catalog filled with high-quality content allows us to know what project to offer to every single one of our numerous partners in order to meet their needs.”
Despite what was a challenging year for the media industry, Sovtelexport managed to increase its sales rate in 2020 by 87 percent. It did so through a combination of optimizing its distribution strategy for the online markets and bolstering its promotional activities.
“The pandemic situation worldwide has crucially changed the process of communication with our clients; however, it did not drastically affect buyers’ needs,” Matyash says. “Buyers, as before, are looking for high-quality content, and demand for a certain genre depends on the territory.”
She says that family entertainment is particularly appreciated at the moment: “It is a global trend.”
Action and sci-fi programs remain popular, and Sovtelexport is fielding requests for stories with a criminal component.
Period dramas and adaptations of classics have long been hallmarks of Russia Television and Radio’s catalog, and both are performing well on the international stage. Highlights on offer from Sovtelexport include the period-set Ekaterina and Ekaterina. Pretenders, Sophia and Godunov. Film versions of internationally acclaimed Russian classics include The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anna Kareninaby Leo Tolstoy, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev, And Quiet Flows the Don by Mikhail Sholokhov and The White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov.
Dramas inspired by popular books of modern Russian authors are also prime picks, according to Matyash. The offer includes The First Circle by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Blackout by Alexey Ivanov and Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes by Guzel Yakhina. “Titles based on books are appealing because in most cases, the plot centers on real events and people,” she adds. “Their messages are simple: love, family and humanity and, therefore, will resonate with viewers of any nationality.”
New programming highlights include the period drama The Terrible, a story of the great love and relentless brutality of the first Russian Tsar, Ivan IV. Matyash says that the “brilliant cast” and attention to detail—with hundreds of extras, over a thousand costumes and 400 elaborate prosthetic makeup designs—will transport viewers to the 16th century. “The program corresponds to the signature style of Russia Television and Radio’s catalog,” she adds. “Our international partners look forward to seeing this type of content from us every year.”
The Optimists: Caribbean Season features a passionate love story that unfolds during the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Viewers will witness masterful diplomacy, adventurism and romance taking place while a nuclear war is threatening the world,” says Matyash. “It is a refined detective story that always resonates with the audience. The series is not limited to one genre only; it is a perfect combination of a love story, spy drama, action and light notes of humor. The Optimists is a real high-end film inspired by real historical events.”
Call Me Mother is an emotional drama that Matyash believes will “touch women’s hearts.” In the series, a young woman finds the strength to overcome difficult challenges and finds love, loyalty and endless kindness in her heart during harsh times. “Stories about strong women have remained relevant in Russian and foreign cinema since Gone with the Wind was released [in 1940],” Matyash says. “Directors keep finding new ways of telling expressive stories about women’s fates and universal values of life.”
Interest in documentary films is steady, she reports. “Programs on culture, traveling, history, people and events of modern days are especially popular.” The new documentary slate features a remarkable film made by the famous Russian director Andrey Konchalovsky, Homo Sperans, which explores peculiarities of the Russian people’s mentality and their unique ability to be happy in any living conditions. And, of course, the lineup includes programs centered on important historical events of the 21st century, including Beslan, The Wall, The Victory Parade and Kresty.
“The Sovtelexport catalog contains over 25,000 hours of diverse content,” says Matyash. “This allows us to find the right program for every client.” For 2021, the company’s goals are to expand the geography of its cooperations, strengthen international relations with current partners and tie-up with new clients.
“The pandemic has accelerated the growth in the number of new streaming services worldwide,” Matyash says. “New companies are actively looking for their own niche in the market without competing with Netflix, for example. They focus on providing their viewers with content that is distinct and different from what’s presented by the major platforms. Also, many online platforms turn to increasing their content rotation. For example, a film remains available for 30 days on the basis of SVOD, and then it gets replaced by a new one and, in case of its high rating, it is transferred to the TVOD category. Thus, the coming year offers significant prospects for distributors, and we expect to take advantage of them.”
See Russia Television and Radio/Sovtelexport’s Spring 2021 Showcase here.