Mipcom: FremantleMedia Chief Focuses on Growth

Global production giant set to expand biz further

CANNES — Cecile Frot-Coutaz, the CEO of production powerhouse FremantleMedia, told an industry aud during a keynote at TV mart Mipcom that she intends to beef up the company.

“One of my goals is to scale up the company, and to do that across new genres, digital also being obviously part of it, and in terms of geography,” she said.

There will be further consolidation in the indie production sector, she said, and FremantleMedia is likely to make further acquisitions itself.

“We will need to use more of our capital to get things funded and made. If you’re going to have to take more risk, you’re going to need to have more scale. It’s easier to take risks when you’re a bigger business,” she said.

FremantleMedia’s major strength at present is its talent and game shows, such as “American Idol,” “Got Talent” and “X Factor,” but Frot-Coutaz said it will now invest more in scripted formats.

“Right now, 30% of our revenues are scripted. If in five years it could be 50%, I’d be happy with that,” she said.

“Scripted is a channel-defining genre, and it also builds a library. This business is about owning IP and building libraries, and anything where you’re building a library, you know in the long run it will be valuable,” she said.

Digital is another focus for FremantleMedia, with YouTube at the heart of its strategy. It has 135 channels on YouTube, which are set to generate around 8 billion views this year. Together with its parent company RTL, FremantleMedia has invested in two multi-channel networks on YouTube, BroadbandTV and Divimove, as it scales up its biz on the vid platform.

“We’re very bullish on digital, and our view of it is that you cannot ignore the views, the creativity and ultimately you cannot ignore the economics of it,” she said.

FremantleMedia will focus on lifestyle verticals, such as food, fashion and cars, in the digital arena, she said.

Subscription VOD services, such as Netflix and Hulu, are likely to be strong partners for FremantleMedia, Frot-Coutaz said.

“In the mid-term, we’d love to be in the original production business for these platforms,” she said.

Frot-Coutaz said that new types of content would be needed for the SVOD services.

“The great thing about a platform like Netflix is it changes the game quite a bit,” she said. “It’s not about a program being everybody’s favorite program. You just need to be somebody’s favorite program, so it’s producing things people are passionate about. It enables different kinds of programming to be able to exist.”

As a producer on the “X Factor,” “Got Talent” and “Idol” franchises, Simon Cowell is central to FremantleMedia’s biz, and Frot-Coutaz rejected a suggestion that he may be losing his focus on the shows.

“Simon’s very focused. He works 24-7, he’s always up, always watching the shows. His focus is not an issue,” she said.

Frot-Coutaz said that the talent show genre is far more crowded than when “Idol” launched 12 years ago, and that has affected the biz.

“There’s some erosion in the markets, but having said that those talent shows — and we have three of the bigger ones — all still perform way above their broadcasters’ average,” she said.

“They are arguably not as big as they once were — and they were once absolutely huge, ‘Idol’ is a cultural phenomenon in the U.S. — but they’re still big. Just not as big as they used to be. But in 2013, we will be making more versions of every single one of those titles than we did last year. There’s still demand for them.”

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