The move is seen as instrumental within Italy’s industry to boosting its scripted TV content output and capitalising on buzz generated by the country’s widely exported “Gomorrah” and “The Young Pope” skeins.
Leone’s appointment by Apt’s board, which took place on Tuesday, still needs to clear a final collective vote on April 12, considered a formality. He will replace former local politician Marco Follini.
According to insiders a key plank of Leone’s plan is to boost high-end Italian TV production and accellerate its international expansion thanks in part to his vast network of international industry ties, including in Hollywood where as head of Rai Cinema Leone forged close rapports with Lakeshore Entertainment, Lionsgate, Harvey Weinstein, among other indie players, and with all the major studios.
Under Leone’s leadership the Apt will also take charge of Rome’s new-concept Mia market for feature films, TV series, documentaries and video games which since its launch in 2015 is strengthening its standing as a post-Mipcom, pre-AFM industry confab with a valid raison d’être.
The Mia mart, which runs parallel to the Rome Film Festival, was formerly run by the Cinema per Roma foundation that oversees the fest. Leone wants to beef up Mia’s business side and make it a real mart where substantial dealmaking is done, though it remains to be seen how he will accomplish that.
Another crucial aspect of Leone’s efforts as APT chief will be to spearhead a collective Italian industry push to obtain different types of contractual agreements between producers and local broadcasters. The broadcasters, especially Rai and Mediaset, currently demand to own most of the rights to a skein, often in perpetuity, in exchange for financing. These old-school types of Italian agreements where broadcasters took almost all the risk but got to keep all the rights is considered a major growth impediment.
“To give more strength and visibility to Italy’s high-end TV series the key thing is that the rules of engagement between producers and Italian broadcasters, who are their initial financers, have to change so that producers can hold on to a larger chunk of the rights than they do at present,” a prominent Apt member commented.
He added that “this is what Leone has pledged to fight for.” Holding on to a larger share of the rights will give Italian producers greater freedom to forge ties with international partners as co-producers. In turn this is hoped to help drive a greater internationalisation of Italian TV fiction, and also to help new players to emerge.
TV production data announced during Mia last year in October quantified annual revenues from Italy’s fiction market at Euros 470 million ($505 million), more than half of which was generated by the country’s five top production companies, which include Pietro Valsecchi’s Tao Due, owned by Mediaset, Palomar, and Cattleya. Only roughly 30 companies make up most of the market.
After heading Rai Cinema, Leone ran Rai’s Rai 1 flagship channel and then became Rai’s deputy chief exec. before stepping down last year after 33 years at the pubcaster.
He will be lobbying for Rai to invest a larger share of its TV licence fee revenues in scripted TV productions and for Italy’s private broadcasters, Mediaset and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky paybox, to also up their local production spend, in compliance with Italian and European media legislation.