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Poll: TV indies' favourite distributors

28 September 2011

In Televisual's survey of the leading independent television production companies, the Production 100, we also asked those same indies to name their favourite distribution partners...

Indie producers now rely more heavily than ever on distributors, both to plug programme budget shortfalls with distribution advances and to bolster income with international sales of completed shows. As this year's Production 100 reveals, the average indie derived 11.6% of its total turnover from rights exploitation.

Most of the larger superindies have their own inhouse distribution outfits to sell their programmes around the world and to secondary UK broadcasters. But mid-sized and smaller indies tend to work with a variety of distributors. As part of the Production 100, we asked indies which distributors they used – and also to tell us which companies they rated and to explain their thinking.

Once again, BBC Worldwide came out top in both cases – it gets the highest number of "most used" and "rated" votes. The corporation's commercial division is rated for its "strong marketing and acquisition teams" and for being "collaborative". Indies like the fact that it has "global reach and sales offices in territories." Moreover, BBC Worldwide is regarded as "willing to contribute to budgets and find co-production partners". Says one producer: "They put in hefty advances for the right project and they do bring in the money." Another indie backs this comment up, saying BBC Worldwide offers the "best advances/investment in projects that require it." BBC Worldwide is also "especially good for sales on UK secondary windows and other BBC satellite channels."

Next up is Zodiak, formerly known as RDF Rights. Factual producers particularly like the distributor, with one citing its "strong grasp of the factual market and its truly global reach." Zodiak "knows the market well and is genuinely excited about factual," says one indie, with another adding: "Zodiak Rights is keen, hardworking and responsive - it works with producers to make shows happen." Several indies are impressed by Zodiak's "clear reporting feedback on projects and market intelligence". The distributor, says one producer, offers "regular reporting and a good online system to check on the progress of sales."

ITV Studios Global Entertainment comes third in the most used distributor rankings. "ITV Global has a strong hold of the market and they get the most value for finished tape sales," reports one producer. Another values the distributor for being "truly international, its attention to client contact and its involvement from the early stages of a project."

Outright Distribution, now part of Warner Bros International TV Production, is next. According to one indie, it gives "a very good service in programme sales and is always eager to communicate its market knowledge and to hear what we have coming up in our pipeline", while another producer mentions the "impressive team of Chris Bonney, Claudia Danser and Andy Zein means great strategic communication with indies, aggressive and dynamic sales and they feel like a real part of the team."

Fifth place is shared by Passion Distribution, DRG and Target Entertainment. Passion Distribution is picked out for "really knowing how to make programmes stand out in the market place" with its chief executive Sally Miles cited by several indies. One says: "Sally Miles is an outstanding figure in the industry working hard and passionately for the production companies she represents."

DRG, meanwhile is rated for being "independent from any production companies" and it has a "responsive, fast and great sales team". Another indie adds: "We have a genuine relationship with them."
And Target Entertainment is picked out for being "professional and efficient at placing our programmes around the world."

Three companies share eighth place: DCD Rights, Endemol Worldwide Distribution and Fremantle Media Enterprises. Indie feedback on the three companies is as follows: DCD Rights is "proactive and works hard for us"; Endemol Worldwide Distribution is "astute and delivers with the right properties"; and Fremantle Media Enterprises has a "good sales team" and "moves fast in the international market."

Other distributors, notably All3Media and Cineflix, score highly in the 'most rated' categories. All3Media, for example, is "proactive, commercial, enthusiastic and responsive" and has a "precise, clear and clever leader in Louise Pedersen." And Cineflix "has been very good at following up on smaller territories and getting back rights to redistribute to a new market", according to one indie, with another saying it "knows the market well and is genuinely excited about factual programming."

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