×

IMG Boosts Presence and Flexes Indie Muscle at Mipcom

Two years ago, WME-IMG partner Chris Rice hit Mipcom with one show and a mission to establish IMG as a player in international sales of scripted series. Based on the portfolio he’s bringing to Cannes this year, Rice achieved his goal.

The Night Manager,” the spy thriller starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston that aired on AMC and BBC, was a sales juggernaut for IMG in 2015 and 2016. This time around, Rice has four high-profile properties — including the Beau Willimon Hulu/Channel 4 drama “The First” and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s BBC America series “Killing Eve” — in his portfolio, and more on the way.

IMG has been aggressively growing its production financing and distribution operations as part of the parent company’s larger goal of investing more in content, rather than simply playing matchmaker for creative talent.

IMG’s focus has been on shows with high-end auspices and appeal to buyers around the world. BBC America’s “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” now in its second season, fits that bill because it is based on a well-known book series by Douglas Adams. The same goes for the deal WME-IMG brokered earlier this year for a series of seven Agatha Christie-branded limited series to air on Amazon and BBC.

“Connecting with a global audience is very much what we look for in the kinds of shows we sell and the business we’re trying to build,” Rice says.

To that end, IMG is making its presence known at Mipcom for the first time. Rice’s operation does not have a formal both but they are holding court in an IMG Lounge for the for the first time in the Croisette 22 space just off the main entrance to the Palais.

Most of the shows to date have stemmed from U.K.-related series commissions because TV creators there by law retain the underlying ownership of their shows — in sharp contrast to the U.S. model.

In the U.S., IMG’s push into the distribution territory that had been the province of studios has raised some eyebrows because of the potential to raise conflicts of interests with clients repped on the talent agency. IMG-WME took a step toward reinforcing the separate operations of the WME talent agency and IMG content- and distribution-focused activities by renaming the parent holding company Endeavor, a nod to the dynamo agency that was the predecessor of WME prior to its merger with William Morris Agency in 2009.

IMG takes multiple paths to its distribution deals. In some cases, the shows stem from clients repped by the WME end of the company, such as “Night Manager.” IMG can offer clients a lower distribution fee than a larger distributor would take and the promise of highly focused sales effort. Observers say that is inevitably offset by the fact that IMG doesn’t wield the same clout with buyers as an established studio.

From Rice’s view, small equates to nimble and not beholden to deal precedents that can get in the way of setting the most optimum market-by-market transactions.

“Unlike a legacy business, we’re in a position where we can sell into every window in every country on every platform,” he says. “We can take the time to figure out what is the best set of partnerships for an individual show, or client or any form of content.”

This approach demands that a project have clear marquee value — such as the anticipation around Willimon’s follow up to “House of Cards” with a show that persuaded Sean Penn to sign on for his first series lead role. “The First” is an ambitious tale of the first effort to send humans to live on Mars.

IMG is a co-financier of “First” with Hulu and Channel 4. Landing that show is a notable development for the distribution business as neither Willimon nor Penn are WME clients. IMG came aboard through its relationships with Channel 4 and Hulu.

IMG has had a TV sales operation for years to handle sporting events, fashion and awards shows and other mostly unscripted content. Rice’s group has waded into the world of scripted TV at a time when there is a deluge of series chasing international licensing coin. The high level of competition only reinforces Rice’s drive to find the most marketable properties.

“The effect of the [increased] number of shows coming out of the U.S. is that international buyers are very focused on shows driven by premium talent,” Rice says. “I’m fearful of the middle market shows. I’ve got no fear of selling talent-driven premium shows. There’s more appetite in the international marketplace than there are shows to feed that right now.”

More TV

  • Arrow -- "Fadeout" -- Image Number:

    TV Ratings: 'Arrow' Signs Off to Low Numbers

    The CW was likely hoping that “Arrow” would sign off with a TV ratings bullseye, but the series finale failed to draw a large audience missed the mark a little. Stephen Amell officially brought out his bow one last time, and 723,000 total viewers tuned in to watch, which represents almost a 20% drop from [...]

  • 'The Quest': Disney Plus Revives ABC

    'The Quest' Revived as Disney Plus Brings Back ABC Fantasy Reality Show (EXCLUSIVE)

    Disney Plus is reviving “The Quest,” a critically acclaimed but short-lived fantasy reality series that aired on ABC in summer 2014. Casting is under way for a new version of the series, which will now focus on teenage contestants. “The Amazing Race” executive producers Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri are back as executive producers [...]

  • John Stankey

    AT&T's John Stankey: TNT, TBS to Boost Unscripted Volume as WarnerMedia Invests in HBO Max

    The march to the launch of HBO Max in May is driving changes across WarnerMedia. John Stankey, AT&T chief operating officer and WarnerMedia chairman, told investors on Wednesday that cable powerhouses TNT and TBS will lean into more unscripted programming as WarnerMedia steers its investment in high-end scripted programming to the nascent subscription streaming platform. [...]

  • BBC to Cut 450 Jobs in

    BBC to Cut 450 Jobs in News Division

    The BBC is to cut 450 jobs in its news operation as part of a cost-cutting exercise. The BBC, which remains the U.K.’s most widely consumed source of news, said it planned to reorganize its newsroom along a “story-led” model, focusing on news stories more than on programs or platforms. This is designed to reduce [...]

  • Bud Light Super Bowl Ad

    Bud Light Asks Super Bowl Viewers to Pick the Ad They Want to See

    Most Super Bowl advertisers put a glitzy commercial in the game and hope for the best. Anheuser-Busch wants viewers to have a stake in the pitch that gets presented on Game Day. Bud Light made two different ads starring Post Malone, and is asking fans to help pick which of the pair ought to run [...]

  • good-morning-america-strahan

    At 'Good Morning America,' Robin Roberts Maintains Her 'X-Factor'

    Robin Roberts used to play basketball in college. She says she’s still building muscles while working at “Good Morning America.” The ABC morning program is many things all at once. It’s a news program. It’s a pillar of the economics of ABC’s parent Walt Disney. And increasingly these days, it is a broader media entity [...]

  • Gabrielle Carteris SAG AFRA PRESIDENT

    SAG-AFTRA Unveils Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA has unveiled the guidelines for intimacy coordinators who are on sets when union members’ work involves nudity and simulated sex. The union released “Standards and Protocols for the Use of Intimacy Coordinators” on Wednesday, six months after announcing that it would standardize the guidelines for such scenes. “SAG-AFTRA believes that implementation of these standards [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content