As CEO, Cathy Payne is looking to the future drivers of Banijay Rights’ distribution business, after combining the programming assets of Banijay and the Endemol Shine Group to form a massive 88,000-hour catalog.
Payne is no stranger to combining sizable programming libraries. It’s a process she oversaw when Endemol purchased Southern Star Entertainment, for which she headed distribution, and again when Endemol merged with Shine. When Banijay finalized its acquisition of the Endemol Shine Group, Payne was tasked with managing the joined content assets and sales teams.
“The most important thing is always going to be people because, without content and people, we don’t have a business,” she says. “We’ve been trying to make sure we communicated the process and potential timelines so we were ready to go, and once integration commenced, it was handled as fast and graciously as possible.”
Payne is now responsible for the monetization of an 88,000-hour catalog, home to some of the most successful global brands, including Big Brother, MasterChef, Temptation Island and many more.
“The overall strategy for the distribution division is a territory-based focus; however, you’re exploiting content, whether it be formats or finished tape or new forms of VOD,” she explains. “Where we have a production company in a territory, we have a joined-up strategy and decide, do we go production first or finished program first? Most importantly, how do we successfully exploit these franchises to have a long broadcast life?
“While we execute a lot of delivery and contracting and servicing global clients centrally, we’re working from a territory strategy,” Payne continues. “We have people in distribution hubs globally. No one will know how to sell better than the person on the ground, who is part of that country’s industry.”
When it comes to selling individual programs, Payne says, “My golden rule is, where does this show have the best chance of long-term success? Why and how will this program work for the broadcaster/platform to whom you are pitching?”
Shows need to work editorially and economically, especially for broadcasters in smaller territories or those experiencing decreased advertising revenues in the COVID-19 economy. “A good example of that is a region like Latin America. We talk a lot about Brazil or Mexico, but we sell formats to Ecuador and smaller countries like Peru and countries that have challenges like Colombia,” explains Payne. “We have formats that are easier for them to produce economically and production-wise. We have an entertainment singing talent format called Your Name Is, which can be a daily format. You need to have a variety of formats that cater to a variety of broadcaster/platform needs and are scalable. One of my favorite versions of MasterChef is MasterChef Thailand, which shows how you can really scale a show to suit a market. I’m very excited because it has been nominated for an International Emmy. You can’t believe how excited those producers are in Thailand! The one thing that is helping those smaller hidden gems in the catalog is the digital world. It’s possible to find them, understand them, promote them and offset the cost of production with clever technology.”
While unscripted shows have been easier to shoot since the coronavirus pandemic, Banijay Rights now has scripted shows returning to production. A key factor in getting production back up and running has been the challenge of securing insurance coverage.
“We’ve had to wait until we had some government schemes,” says Payne. “There is one in the U.K. that is helping. The first and most important thing in any production is, how can we do it safely? Are we confident that we can look after the cast and crew? We have quite a lot of shows that have gone back into production. In the U.K., I think we had the first scripted show that restarted production in Viewpoint, and that’s being shot in Manchester. Grantchester is back in production. We’ve had less disruption in some of the Nordic countries and Australia, and Germany went back into production quite early.”
Broadcasters have gaps in their schedules because so much worldwide production has been impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns. As Payne explains, clients are looking to Banijay Rights’ library for options.
“A great example is a non-exclusive deal we did with Netflix for The Fall in the U.K.,” explains Payne. “The Fall has already been on the BBC and Amazon, and it’s become one of the most-watched shows on Netflix. We look at what we’ve got ready or what was already shot, and postproduction can be done remotely. We also have the issue of increased COVID-19 costs because we’ve had to delay certain productions. We’re working with broadcasters on how we are going to fund those costs. In general, broadcasters have been very supportive because it’s the world we live in and we’re all trying to find innovative solutions to it.”
As Payne looks ahead to the next 12 to 24 months, she notes that not just for Banijay Rights but for the Banijay group worldwide, “we’ve brought all these production entities together and nearly all that is done. We’re focusing on processes so we can be efficient and plan a roadmap for the future. We’re budgeting for 2021 and 2022, looking at three-year plans in scripted and focusing on what are going to be the key drivers for us as a distribution business.”
While Zoom has allowed Payne and her teams to remain in constant communication with clients, she misses the one-on-one contact that markets and, particularly, territory trips afford. Mostly, she enjoys her work and the excitement that comes with reading a script that exceeds expectations. “We’ve got a couple of really interesting projects coming down. That’s why I’m in the business because, ultimately, I like watching content.”
See Banijay Rights’ Fall 2020 Showcase here.