Turkish soap operas are big business in South America. So is K-pop music. If that’s news to you, you’re not alone.
“If you had told me that three years ago, I’d have probably asked you to send over what you were drinking,” says Jonathan Stern, Fusion’s VP and head of business development.
It’s just one of the ways that over-the-top distribution and programming has altered the way TV business has changed in the past few years. “We and others are racing to meet demand from consumers, demand that has really existed for decades, (as consumers want) to have more control and flexibility around their television,” says Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins. “We’ve invested so heavily in improving our user experience, our personalization and ad targeting.”
Yet more channels opening their doors to more programming probably gives FX Networks CEO John Landgraf a headache; his recent assertion that there is “simply too much television” is now resonating in a world clamoring to find the right combination of high-end original programs, local shows that will appeal to individual markets and original programming either made inhouse or specially commissioned.
The issue of ever-expanding platforms and program offerings will be much discussed this week in Cannes during the Mipcom sales market, which runs Oct. 5-8.
Right now, there is no such thing as “too much” TV, so far as content creators and distributors are concerned.
“Landgraf is right to an extent, but this is all good news for our business: more buyers to pitch to, more buyers you can window out in territories all over the world,” says John Morayniss, CEO of eOne Television. “That allows you to take more risk, make more shows where the investment is bigger.”
Meanwhile, content producers — and savvy distributors — are listening to the voices of the masses more closely than ever to help them figure out what risks to take. Take Done + Dusted, a production house that has thrived with live productions like Yahoo’s “Ultimate DJ.”
“With livestreaming, you’re getting immediate feedback,” says D+D president Ian Stewart. “It’s like making a phone call to a billion people and having them all talk back to you.”
That sort of response has inspired some companies to expand beyond production: Temple Street (“Orphan Black”) recently hired a president of distribution.
“Clearly, the consumer has spoken,” says managing director John Young. “Everyone is jostling for position as to who gets the windows.”
But with such companies as Netflix and Amazon already dominating the content distribution market, that creates issues for others.
“Without the ability to distribute your series — those guys take worldwide exclusive rights — you’re not maximizing worldwide revenue on the show,” says Chris Ottinger, president, international television distribution and acquisitions for MGM, which has plans for its own VOD and SVOD services in the works. “You may not have a back end.”
While U.S. shows still dominate, “production companies and producers are getting stronger, and it doesn’t matter as much where you’re located,” says Brad Dancer, senior VP, program planning and research for National Geographic Channel.
“The amount of production coming out of the U.S. is huge, but more and more we see writers and talents coming from outside the U.S.,” says Christophe Riandee, Gaumont (“Hannibal”) vice chairman.
Take “Vikings,” which airs on History and is a U.S. show — with a British showrunner, no American stars and is filmed overseas. “Hollywood is still the gold standard,” says Ottinger (MGM distributes the show), “but we take talent from wherever we can find it.”
Finding that talent often means sourcing local programs, which are often used to flavor an OTT channel’s offerings, to entice viewers who may not be familiar with original shows in new windows. Plus, owning the rights to a local program gives you a leg up if you want to farm that content into the U.S. or remake it.
“OTT is a great testing ground,” says Hans Van Rijn, VP, digital media and business development, for Discovery Networks Intl. “If it works well in a local market, we can move content to other markets. We’ve taken talents (in local markets) and moved them into OTT; if that works we move them to a linear sphere. It’s a road map for talent.”
That road has yet to be fully navigated.
“OTT is a real part of the ecosystem at this point,” says Starz chief strategy officer John Penney. “It’s no longer a second or third choice or window for a market; it’s considered right along with the cable channels and broadcasters. It’s not a scary thing so much as an opportunity — an opportunity to grow the pie and reach more people.”