RTL group’s global production and distribution arm FremantleMedia is best known for its reality competition shows, such as “The X Factor,” pictured above, and “Got Talent” franchises, but there’s much more to it than that. Last year, FremantleMedia generated 8,500 hours of programming, and now it’s focused on adding further breadth and depth to its operations.
One of the main focuses for growth is drama. CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz would like to increase the share of revenue coming from scripted shows from 30% to 50%. She intends to do so through a combination of company acquisitions, such as the recent purchase of a majority stake in Danish drama producer Miso Film, organic growth at its existing production companies, such as UFA in Germany and FremantleMedia North America, where its drive into scripted is being led by Craig Cegielski and Stefanie Berk, and picking up third-party shows for global distribution.
“Drama is important because it occupies a big part of broadcasters’ schedules, and because it is channel defining,” Frot-Coutaz says. “In a world where more and more platforms are trying to make their mark, being in primetime drama is important because it is a schedule driver.”
FremantleMedia is also focused on the web. It is already a major force in the online sector, with 141 YouTube channels and 6.7 million video views last year.
“We are seeing advertising dollars move to online video and move there quite rapidly,” Frot-Coutaz says. “If you look at the U.S., online video advertising is going to grow at 40%, and TV advertising is going to grow at 3%. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that we need to be present there.”
It is focusing much of its attention on working with multi-channel networks, mainly based on YouTube, and centered around a number of content genres, such as pets, through the Pet Collective; fashion, through a partnership with Style Haul; and food, through a pact with Vice Media.
“It is about aggregating a lot of passionate communities of interest around a piece of IP. Scale and having the right creative capabilities are important, and identifying some specific genres and verticals in which you are going to operate is important, because it is a niche world rather than a broad world,” Frot-Coutaz says.
The core of FremantleMedia’s business remains its non-scripted shows. It suffered a setback recently when Fox canceled “The X Factor” in the U.S., but it still has “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent” on air there, and all three shows are produced in myriad countries. It recently acquired a majority stake in 495 Prods., home of “Jersey Shore” and other hit unscripted series.
Frot-Coutaz says the market for talent shows has become very crowded. When “Idol” launched, there were probably only one or two other talent shows in the schedules, and now you have about 10 in some markets. In order to keep ahead of the competition, FremantleMedia continues to freshen up the formats. Bringing technology into the process is one focus. It recently introduced Google voting in the U.S., which Frot-Coutaz says was “hugely successful.”
“It shows you how, when you introduce compelling technology in these shows, and enable people to engage with them in a better way, you have a huge success. So we are always trying to innovate in terms of the viewer participation, and that is a big part of keeping them vital,” she says.
But even when a format like “X Factor” is dropped by a broadcaster, it’s not necessarily the end of the story, as FremantleMedia has seen with other formats like “Idol,” which has made a comeback in some territories.
The same could be true for “The X Factor” in the U.S., so America may have not seen the last of Simon Cowell.
“Simon is going to focus a lot on the U.K. series for 2014 and then at some point he is going to want to go back to the U.S., and at that point we will look at ‘X Factor’ and see whether we can reintroduce it and how.”