Zodiak Rights’s Tim Mutimer

TimMutimer-ZodiakRights-616The merger of Banijay Group and Zodiak Media earlier this year formed a leading independent producer, acquirer and distributor of television content, with a network of production companies in 17 territories around the world. Tim Mutimer, the CEO of Zodiak Rights, is in charge of a catalog that spans scripted, unscripted, factual and children’s programming. Mutimer has begun working with producers across the entire group while furthering existing relationships with third-party producers in search of must-see programming that will satisfy the needs of traditional broadcasters and nonlinear platforms.

WS: What are the strengths of the combined Banijay-Zodiak catalog?
MUTIMER: Together, Banijay and Zodiak are now present in 17 territories, so we’ve got lots and lots of production companies to work with, and they’re the leading production companies in many of those territories. Part of the fun for us is working with our producers to see what’s on their slates and what we think has international appeal. We’ve got producers now in all of the major English-speaking territories—Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., the U.K.—and we know English content travels well. So we have lots of great content coming through for us. And we continue to work with our third-party producers. That’s a really important part of the catalog that we represent; probably about 40 percent or 45 percent of our overall business comes from third-party producers.

WS: Tell us about some of the first-look deals or distribution partnerships that you’ve made.
MUTIMER: In terms of non-scripted, we’ve got a lot of deals in place. They can vary from seeing a project that we love and getting involved at an early stage to seeing something that’s coming to market and bidding alongside other distributors to identifying producers that we work with on a longer-term basis and have first-look deals with. We’re starting to ramp up [our scripted business] and we want to represent more ongoing scripted franchises. We recently announced a deal with Arise Pictures, a scripted production company based in L.A. They’ve got a lot of good commercial projects in development, and we’re working hard with them to secure funding so that we can take them out into the international market.

WS: What trends do you see in the scripted market?
MUTIMER: The competition that comes from the big SVOD players means that there’s more demand than ever before, but the linear broadcasters are fighting back and [placing] appointment-to-view, must-see scripted programming in key slots in their schedules. Broadcasters are also using technology to make sure that their audiences can catch up and watch programming on their iPads. So there’s a real demand.

Last year we launched Versailles—which is the most expensive drama ever produced in France—in the English language, and we’ve sold that now into 135 territories, [including] the U.S., where it’s going to air on a broadcaster [Ovation] and on Netflix.

Wolf Creek, which was commissioned by the Australian SVOD service Stan, is great because it’s a brand that people know from the film franchise. We launched The Returned, from Yellow Bird, a production company in our group. We’ve got a French-language Belgian series called Public Enemy, which won the MIPDrama Screenings award. There’s been so much buzz about it. It just shows the broad appeal that even non-English-language scripted has these days.

WS: In unscripted programming, what are buyers looking for?
MUTIMER: In terms of non-scripted, people are interested in franchises as well. Increasingly, people want something that they can put their marketing money behind and attract an audience and repeat. And again, the strength of the group is that we’ve got ideas that are coming from all around the world, and we can make them travel quickly. Undressed is a series that started in Italy. It’s traveling into lots of other territories. We’ve already announced the U.K., and there are many more coming. In terms of formats, shows like Wild Things, which we make with GroupM Entertainment, is uplifting, fun, original and different. We launched that a year ago, and it’s in six territories already.

WS: As you look toward the future, what opportunities do you see with this larger catalog?
MUTIMER: The next few months are going to be about understanding what we’ve got and talking within the group to our production partners and looking at their slates. We’re a distributor of scale and we’ve got the know-how, so if we get in early, we can see an idea that we like and we can work with our producers to make sure that they deliver us international versions and we can market them properly. It’s quite exciting to be able to do that with a lot of new producers within the group. I think you’ll see more of the kind of development deals that we’ve got with Arise. We’ve got some great partners that we want to carry on working with. I’ve also got an incredible team. We’ve come through a merger, which is always a tough time, but they’re passionate about what they do, from sales to acquisitions to the international programming team that makes sure that we get the materials to our customers; we’ve got great people and that’s important. With that and some great content, the future looks bright.