On the eve of next week’s Mipcom TV programme market (4-8 October), Televisual asked four leading distribution bosses to give their verdict on the state of the international sales business.
The four executives paint an encouraging picture ahead of the market, with widespread agreement that it’s going to be a busy week in Cannes. In particular, programmes and formats that have performed well in their home market will be in strong demand as buyers play it safe.
CEO, Passion Distribution
“We are preparing ourselves for a very busy market. In 2009, we constantly came up against either broadcasters or entire territories with buying freezes and we all felt the pinch. There is no question that 2010 has seen an upturn against that and most territories, although some still with budget constraints, are out buying and in need of good content. Information is key - a show’s track record, added value in 360 degree cross platform materials and fantastic marketing make a show stand out and represent great value for money and a confident buy.”
CEO, All3Media International
“We’re very positive about Mipcom. We feel that the early part of last year was quite tough, but this year has been really good. We are lucky – we have got some fantastic shows from the producers we work with. And for the right show there are buyers and the market is moving. There is still some reluctance in certain territories. We went through a phase where a lot of people said we are not buying, we are waiting to see what happens but that is not such a problem now. Canada is little bit cautious, as are parts of eastern and central Europe, Scandinavia and New Zealand. But the rest of the world - for the right show - is pretty good.”
President, Worldwide Entertainment, FremantleMedia
“Globally there’s a growing appetite for entertainment programmes, driven by glossy primetime formats, stripped reality and games. These have been performing well for broadcasters, and that’s very evident in the audience figures we’re seeing around the world, and in the number of new commissions and returning sales for FremantleMedia’s productions. Whilst the Europe/USA TV heartlands are still growing, we’re seeing some stellar performances in emerging Asian countries like India, China and Indonesia. We have a very broad slate of entertainment programmes for Mipcom and we’re expecting a busy and successful market.”
“We’re optimistic about this year’s Mipcom. There are definite signs that international demand is on the up for factual programming which can confidently and efficiently sit in primetime television slots and deliver great ratings. High quality documentaries that bring universally relevant and world event stories to the screen are receiving strong interest from buyers. We have also seen a surge in commissions for scripted and non-scripted formats whose proven track-records are attractive in this risk averse market. Scripted formats are definitely going to be the new reality shows – you heard it here first!”
There are some pretty sobering stats to be found in a new report, Women in the Creative Media Industries, from Skillset.
It’s hardly news that there’s a “stark gender imbalance” in the creative industries, according to the report. TV’s unforgiving freelance contract culture has long put working mothers at a disadvantage compared to men and women without children.
Yet the findings of the report still surprise. Here are just a few of them.
- TV has the greatest disparity in average earnings in the creative industries between men (£39,000) and women (£32,500). And while three-quarters (75 percent) of men working in the industry are aged 35 and over, this is true of just over half (52 per cent) of women.
- 35% of men in the industry have dependent children living with them but only 23% of women, suggesting that many women leave the industry as a consequence of starting a family.
- The proportion of women in the audiovisual industries dropped from 38 per cent to 27 per cent between 2006 and 2009.
- 51% of women are aged 35 or over compared with 64% of men. Even adjusting for increased levels of female new entrants in recent years, women have been leaving the industry before or during middle age.
Meanwhile, it’s worth noting a couple of new initiatives to try to redress the gender imbalance in creative industries.
Women in Film and Television are running a new mentoring scheme which will pair up 16 mid-career women in the TV and film business with experienced mentors. The scheme is open for applicants until 1st October and it’s being managed by the impressive Nicola Lees, who produced Televisual’s Intelligent Factual Festival this year and who edits TVmole.com.
Secondly, mentoring and networking consultant Annmarie Dixon-Barrow will also run a series of Skillset-funded initiatives to connect women from the television industry with industry leaders from throughout the UK. This includes the WOMEN mentoring programme that will pair 25 women with industry leaders from around the world via a virtual network. Recruitment will begin on 1 October, with the programme starting in November.
Skillset has also secured funding for a limited number of training bursaries of up to £600 via the government's Women and Work scheme.
The highly regarded Production 100 ranks and profiles the top 100 indie production outfits as well as providing a comprehensive report on the state of the indie market. It also contains contact and staff details for the UK's top indies.
Superindie All3Media took top spot in the Production 100 for the third year running. Endemol came in second, while Hit Entertainment came third.
The combined UK revenues of indies taking part in the Production 100 this year was £1.78bn. Falling budgets emerged as a key issue facing many indies, with 69% reporting they had declined in the last year.
What a difference a year makes. When Televisual last published its Production 100 survey, in September 2009, the mood was unremittingly bleak. Many indie producers told us their situation was so precarious that their biggest challenge was simply surviving the next few months.
This year’s Production 100 survey stands in stark contrast. In 2010, there’s a tangible sense of cautious optimism about the independent production sector. Most say that the business climate is gradually improving as broadcasters enjoy an advertising uptick and commission more programmes.
In fact, many indies have exited the recession with more diversified, dynamic businesses. Compelled to find new sources of revenue during the UK downturn, they have survived by spreading their wings into international markets, particularly the opened-up US network and cable sector.
Indies, of course, are still rightfully concerned about the state of the UK market. There’s a sense that we will never return to the levels of business seen before the market crashed in 2008.
Budgets are a real issue. Indies loudly complain that commissioning budgets are continually being squeezed, but that broadcasters want the same – or higher – quality for less money. Worse, there are numerous complaints that broadcasters are failing to cash flow productions properly, creating real problems for mid-sized and smaller indies without the benefit of deep pockets.
Meanwhile, at the top end of the market, there’s been a remarkable return of the indie consolidation trend that characterised the pre-recession era, with the likes of RDF, Shed and Optomen all changing hands in recent weeks.
The difference this time is that it goes beyond mere consolidation – this is more like a super-consolidation as the big get even bigger. According to our figures, the top five superindie groups now account for 50% of the indie market. And global outfits are doing much of the buying.
In fact much of the UK production sector is now in foreign hands with US studios Warner Bros and NBC Universal and European conglomerates Endemol, RTL and De Agostini owning five of our top 10 superindie groups. For good or ill, this fact alone reveals much about how far this so called ‘lifestyle’ business has come in the last ten years.
See Televisual’s September issue for the Production 100 survey