Distributors Talk Windowing Trends


HARI’s Sophie “Kido” Prigent, PBS Distribution’s Joe Barrett and Thunderbird Entertainment’s Richard Goldsmith took part in a panel discussion on approaches to windowing as day two of the TV Kids Summer Festival kicked off today.

TV Kids’ Anna Carugati moderated the Window Watching session with Prigent, head of distribution at HARI; Barrett, VP of global sales at PBS Distribution; and Goldsmith, president of global distribution and consumer products at Atomic Cartoons and Thunderbird Entertainment. You can watch the session here.

Asked about buyers’ attitudes to exclusivity today, Barrett noted, “They always want exclusivity where they can get it. But there are two factors that are weighing in on this exclusivity piece. One is tightening budgets. The second is accessibility. The release approach needs to be a multiplatform strategy, and having your content on multiple platforms with tightening budgets tends to lend toward non-exclusivity. So, the attitudes are changing based on the complexity of the platform strategy.”

Goldsmith added, “The good thing about the downturn that’s happened in the last year is that almost every platform in the world is open to different funding strategies. A platform that has traditionally, or at least in the last ten years, said, ‘We need global rights,’ has now said, ‘It’s OK if you bring in a partner in a couple of territories and we can give them a first window.’ That allows us to bring in co-production partners and do a couple of presales.”

“Holdbacks for FVOD and AVOD are changing,” Prigent noted. “Broadcasters are conscious of the fact that you need to build brand awareness. They are less worried about YouTube and the effect that it will have on their viewership because they understand that it actually benefits them. We used to have lots of holdbacks on these rights; now it’s getting more flexible.”

Factoring L&M into a windowing strategy is key, Goldsmith explained. “When we take something out that has toy value, we sit with the toy companies and ask what they want us to do. Traditionally in the U.S., you had to be on Disney, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, and that is still the main priority for some toy companies and retailers, but it’s changing dramatically.”

Mittens & Pants, for example, is using what Goldsmith referred to as “the CoComelon model,” with broad reach across multiple AVOD services. “We’ve invested in building up our internal operations for YouTube and social media,” he added. “It depends on the market, but ultimately, one thing we can’t ignore is how important YouTube is to building any brand. No matter what platform you’re on, you need to have a very significant YouTube plan as well.”

“The dream plan is to have the free-to-air, and then the pay-TV, pan-regional come aboard, and then the SVOD,” Prigent said. “What’s interesting is how you promote your content on YouTube. You can suggest to kids in the recommendations for them to go and watch another show of yours, for example, but you can also do cross-promotion with specific content. It’s a whole ecosystem that you need to take into consideration.”

The “one-size-fits-all” approach to crafting a rollout strategy doesn’t work, Barrett said. “To Richard’s point, every market’s different, but the one common denominator globally seems to be YouTube. A YouTube strategy is necessary for engagement.”

Barrett stressed that IP owners need to “have a windowing strategy that makes sense. Particularly with new series, you don’t want to be cutting and structuring deals on AVOD and FAST before the broadcast and SVOD deals just for the revenue that it’s generating. Secondly, be in as many territories as possible. It sounds obvious, but it’s a little more difficult.”

Finding other sources of revenue outside of content-sales income is crucial, the panelists noted, both to recoup investments on shows and to strengthen engagement.

“I’m looking at investing in Roblox and mobile games,” Goldsmith said. “All of that costs money. If you’re going to properly distribute something, as a producer or a distributor, you need to have a pool of investment capital that you’re able to spend. When you go on AVOD in the U.S., we might be on ten platforms, but we don’t get a dime as an advance from any of these platforms; it’s all on a rev share. The only way that we’re able to do that is either with our own financing or to have achieved enough sales outside the U.S.”

The discussion then moved to the demand for library product. When it comes to established IPs, demand is high, Prigent said. FAST channels are providing an opportunity for older brands to find homes, but Goldsmith is of the perspective that it’s a “challenging” market for library content for kids.

“It’s 100 percent hit-driven now,” he said. “A hit show will always sell. But the evolution of these platforms over the last ten or 12 years is that they go from taking library content to then just doing originals. If you look at our catalog, which includes adult and kids’ content, across the board, it’s the well-known shows that are being sold day in and day out. And the other ones are not.”

“The really strong catalog titles are few and far between,” Barrett added. “Buyers do want that catalog title to squash risk aversion. By the same token, they want new, they want fresh. What’s the current hit? So, it’s a balancing act.”