Ricky Gervais, Sharon Horgan Explore TV Trends as Producers

Two of the U.K.’s most acclaimed creative talents, Ricky Gervais and Sharon Horgan, are headlining the inaugural Variety European TV Summit, which takes place on June 13.

Gervais, the creator of global successes including “The Office” and “Afterlife,” and Horgan, the creator of hit comedies “Catastrophe” and “Divorce,” are taking part in keynote discussions at the conference.

Both Gervais and Horgan reflect a growing industry trend for top talent to not only star in shows, but to write and produce, too — delivering programs that bear the clear hallmarks of their creators.

At the summit, they will explore the business from a creative’s point of view, sharing their thoughts about the opportunities and challenges they face at a time of ever increasing demand for top level talent by both streamers and traditional TV broadcasters.

The one-day summit will focus on the intersection of content and tech within the TV industry. It will feature speakers from traditional networks as well as new digital platforms and streaming services. The keynotes and panels will be moderated by senior Variety journalists.

The conference will open with a detailed look at how global media companies are broadening their reach with new platforms and ways of accessing content. The speakers include Sky’s managing director of content Gary Davey, Sergio Osle Varona, president of Movistar Plus, and David Lynn, president and CEO of Viacom Intl. Media Networks.

Davey says the industry is at a “pivot” point. “It is all being driven by technology in the same way that the arrival of Sky was driven by technology.”

Executives from the three leading distributors — ITV Studios Global Entertainment managing director Ruth Berry, All3Media Intl. CEO Louise Pedersen and Endemol Shine Intl. CEO Cathy Payne — will then outline the many options now facing producers who want to take their projects to audiences all over the world, revealing which platforms work best in which territories.

“The distribution landscape will change more in the next 12-18 months than it has in years,” says Payne, reflecting on a period that will see the launch of SVOD services from companies including Apple, Disney and Warner Bros.

It’s also a period that is seeing traditional players forge new partnerships to compete against digital players — a move that has seen old rivals become allies.

One of the best examples of this is Britbox, the joint-venture streaming service being launched later this year by the BBC and ITV. Britbox president Soumya Sriraman will be at the summit to explain how the partners will co-operate, and what the pay-offs and pitfalls of teaming up might be.

Elsewhere on the day, the leaders of specialist streaming platforms reveal how it is possible to survive, and indeed thrive, in the era of popular generalist platforms like Netflix and Amazon.

Walter Presents co-founder Walter Iuzzolino, Hopster CEO Nick Walters, DAZN senior VP of original programming and content development Grant Best and NBC Universal Intl. senior VP for branded on demand Hendrik McDermott are the speakers.

“The revolution that has been driven largely by Netflix and Amazon has allowed for a lot of other services to exist in a very complex and diverse ecosystem,” says Iuzzolino.

There’s also a session titled the Golden Age of Storytelling, in which some of the industry’s top creative producers reveal the inspirations for their projects, and explain how they develop stories that cross boundaries but maintain a strong sense of place, time and character.

Speakers include RAI head of drama Eleonora Andreatta, “Studio Airlift” writer and exec producer Anna Winger, SAM Prods. co-founder Adam Price, Bavaria Fiction exec producer for international TV series Moritz Polter, and Carnival Films executive chairman Gareth Neame.

“I do believe it’s a golden age,” says Neame, citing the “sheer volume of drama, the plethora of platforms, the high production values as well as the writing and acting quality” in the TV industry in 2019.

The Variety European TV Summit is being held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, and is co-produced by global events company Informa’s KNect365 division, the world’s largest business-to-business organizer.

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