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Remaking Desperate Housewives in Africa

Could this be the sign that Africa is about to become the next big territory in the international TV market?

Disney Media Distribution unveiled a deal at Mipcom today that will see its hit series Desperate Housewives remade for African audiences.

The series, which will be filmed in Nigeria and known as Desperate Housewives Africa, will be co-produced by EbonyLife TV and Disney. It is set to air in summer 2014.

The series will feature an African cast of new and established talents, and will be filmed on location in Lagos, where a local “Wisteria Lane” has been found. The show will closely follow the format and storylines of the original US version, but with a Nigerian flavour.

The show will be executive produced by Mo Abudu, the CEO and executive chairman of EbonyLife TV (pictured below with Disney's Giovanni Mastrelangelo).

She told Televisual that Desperate Housewives Africa reversion would be “very, very modern” and that the production team was working with leading Nigerian fashion designers and interior designers to create the look of the show.

A passionate advocate for Africa, Abudu pitched the deal as a symbol of the economic rise of Africa. “It’s Africa’s time to shine,” she said. “We are the only part of the world not going through recession.” She pointed out that there over 0.5bn mobile subscribers across the continent, with 120m mobile subscribers in Nigeria alone.

She added that it was time for mainstream media to focus on the many positive things that are happening in Africa, rather than fuelling perceptions that the entire continent is engulfed in famine, poverty, disaster and war.

EbonyLife TV launched three months ago and is a pan-African channel that is pitched at the continent’s growing middle class. Featuring a mix of aspirational  homegrown and acquired content, it plays on Africa’s leading pay-TV platform DStv.

Abudu hosts her own talk show on EbonyLifeTV called Moments with Mo, which has seen her interview high profile guests such as former US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton through to footballer Rio Ferdinand.

It’s not the first time that Disney has remade the Desperate Housewives format for international audiences. It’s also had great success with a Turkish version which launched in 2011 and is now in its fourth season. The show also been remade in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia/Ecuador and in a US Hispanic version.

Giovanni Mastrelangelo, Disney Media Distributions’s general manager for emerging markets said the deal offered “the opportunity to engage African audiences through locally relevant and entertaining storytelling.”

Posted 07 October 2013 by Tim Dams

Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd at the LFF

There’s obviously lots of great films to see at this month’s London Film Festival (9-20th October), but it’s also a good opportunity to hear to some of the world’s leading film-makers talk about their craft.

Televisual has just heard that a few more tickets have been released for the Masterclass with acclaimed cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (Captain Phillips, The Hurt Locker, United 93).

The Bafta-winning Ackroyd spent a decade shooting TV docs before moving into features, and this very much informs his shooting style – known for its claustrophobic realism, desaturated colours and dynamic momentum.

The event had previously been marked as sold out, so it’s worth hurrying if you want a ticket.

Posted 04 October 2013 by Tim Dams

Mipcom: the TV producers eyeing international growth

Hundreds of UK producers, distributors and buyers are heading out to Cannes this weekend for the Mipcom programme market.

The market has evolved hugely in recent years, becoming an important forum for producers in search of funding and international co-production partners for their next projects.

This reflects the increasingly global, export orientated nature of the UK’s TV production sector. Televisual’s Production 100, published last month, is full of countless examples of indies producing for clients in the US, in particular, as well as rising territories such as China and Latin America. A dozen or so well known British indies now earn more than 50% of their revenues from international broadcasters, including Wag TV (85%), Raw (78%), Darlow Smithson (87%), Studio Lambert (62%) and Blink Films (60%).

But exactly what do indies hope to achieve at Mipcom this year, and where do they see the most possibilities for growth in the international market? Here’s the view of five execs from leading production companies:

Matt Robins
Head of development, October

Mipcom provides the best opportunity to talk face-to-face with October’s international partners on high value co-productions – ranging from history specials to docu-drama series and feature docs. With a growing slate of complex multi-funder projects, having the chance to seat five broadcasters at the same table is a rare treat. Mipcom also offers a welcome chance to pitch new ideas to commissioning partners from the US and Canada, where our business is growing significantly. Attacking them while they are away from home, giddy with jetlag and blindsided by potent rosé is a core part of October’s strategy for growth.

Michael Rose
Co-founder, Magic Light Pictures

We’ve sold our half hour specials The Gruffalo, Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom to over 180 countries. So this Mipcom our focus is on continuing sales (especially second window/VOD) and finding additional DVD and VOD partners. We’ve been building The Gruffalo into a classic family brand in the UK (selling approx. £15m of merchandise in 2012 in addition to 750k DVDs) and we’re now looking to build the brand internationally. We’re targeting growth in Germany, Scandinavia, Australasia –territories where the original books have been strongest – and North America where we’ve sold over 450,000 DVDs.

Laura Mansfield
Managing director, Outline

Outline’s international growth strategy is based on creating and licensing our formats, while ensuring our finished shows are fully exploited. We have three new formats debuting at this market: Health Freaks On Trial (Warner Bros), Million Dollar Intern (BBCWW) and Wildlife Revival (Hat Trick International). I’ll be there to give them as much support as I can by providing a producer’s creative insights into meetings set up by our distributors, including Hat Trick International, with whom we’ve just done an output deal. The US is also a key target for production growth, so I’ll use the opportunity to meet with US broadcasters.

Carlo Massarella
Company director, Windfall Films

Much of Windfall Films’ output is co-produced between multiple international broadcasters. Mipcom is a great place to catch up with European partners on existing and new projects. Even if a broadcaster is contributing to a project at a pre-sale level, it offers a good opportunity for face-to-face meetings to update them on progress. Mipcom is also a good place to meet new partners in emerging markets further afield. There’s a growing appetite for factual output in the Latin American and Asian markets.  Securing partnerships from channels in this part of the world helps us get ambitious specials and series off the ground.

Bo Stehmeier
Managing director, distribution, Off The Fence

Mipcom is the most important market for OTF. We are already seeing a huge amount of interest for our lifestyle programming from the Americas, Scandinavia and Australia. Our more traditional factual slate is already pre-selling in to EMEA and will be seeking co-pro partners for our development slate. On the back of two larger digital deals we will also be pursuing strategic alliances with digital platforms for our specialist factual catalogue, especially in the OTT space. We are also looking to license action movies/TV series and music programming for the African Market.

Posted 04 October 2013 by Tim Dams

BFI Player: could it transform the UK film industry?

“It’s a defining moment in the BFI’s 80 year history,” said chairman Greg Dyke as he unveiled the BFI Player today.

A new video-on-demand platform, the BFI Player aims to do for British film what the BBC iPlayer has done for television.

“The BBC iPlayer launched six years ago and it’s one of those technologies that you can’t imagine what life was like before it,” said Dyke.

Dyke added that the BBC VOD platform was a public service intervention that had enriched the lives of millions. “The BFI Player has the potential to do the same.”

The BFI Player launches as an online only platform on 9 October, offering a curated mix of free and pay-per-view content from the BFI archive.

Initially, about 1,000 items will be available to view (of which about 60% will be free to view), but the number of films is expected to grow significantly in 2014. It’s likely that, in time, the BFI will also roll out the BFI Player onto TV and games platforms too.

Clio Barnard’s Cannes competitor The Selfish Giant will launch on the BFI Player simultaneously with its UK theatrical release on 25th October, and the BFI restoration of The Epic Of Everest (1924) will be available on the same day as its premiere at the BFI London Film Festival and UK cinema release on 18th October.

Day and date releases will cost £10 to view, while pay per view titles will be charged at £2.50 in standard definition and £3.50 in HD.

At the launch event today, BFI executives were bullish about the possible impact of the BFI Player in the UK, stressing that it would help open up its archive, boost audiences throughout the country for specialised and archive films, and also be a valuable source of VOD revenue for those producers and distributors who exhibit their films on the platform.

“When I became chairman, I was concerned the BFI was not in the digital world at all,” said Dyke, adding that the organisation’s extensive archive library was only really open to academics and researchers.

He placed the BFI Player launch in the context of the BFI’s five-year Film Forever plan, published last year, which saw the funding body pledge to focus its resources on boosting film education, audience choice and unlocking UK film heritage.

Dyke has long made it clear that he thinks the BFI has been too London focused (“I think you are the London Film Institute”, he told the panel interviewing him for the job). At the launch today, he cited a stat that only 7% of screens outside London were dedicated to specialised films.

So he was keen to emphasise that the BFI Player would allow anyone with a broadband connection to watch archive and specialised British films – no matter where they live in the UK.

The head of the BFI Film Fund, Ben Roberts, told Televisual that producers and distributors could choose if they wanted their films to appear on the BFI Player.

He stressed that films backed by the BFI’s £26m annual production fund would not have to air on the service as a condition of funding.

But Roberts said that the producers and distributors he had spoken to had reacted warmly to the idea of the BFI Player. “In all the conversations with distributors of films we’ve had about this, I don’t think we’ve had a single negative reaction.”

Roberts clearly views the BFI Player as an important additional distribution platform for specialised British films, at a time when many are struggling to find the time and space to reach audiences.

That’s partly because the number of British films being produced and released is rising - but cinema screens are not. Four British films are being released this weekend alone – Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now, Dexter Fletcher’s Sunshine on Leith, Paul Wright’s For Those in Peril and Sophie Fiennes’ The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.

Meanwhile, TV has squeezed film to the edges of its schedules, DVD sales are falling and existing VOD platforms like Netflix or Lovefilm are geared very much towards blockbuster Hollywood releases. “If you go to existing VOD platforms to find truly specialised options, they are either not there or they are dominated by the studios,” says Roberts.

Robert notes the emergence of specialised VOD platforms in the US, from the likes of Magnolia Pictures and IFC Films, have helped drive up audiences for films in areas that are not well served with specialist cinemas.

It means that distributors are now earning more money from VOD revenues. And this money is, in turn, being fed back into production, as distributors are paying more for rights in the knowledge that they can recoup via VOD.

Which means that the BFI Player could, ultimately, prove to be a significant boon for audiences – and a shot in the arm for the UK film production sector.

* A few days after this article was written, Curzon Cinemas announced the launch of its own VOD service - Curzon Home Cinema. It's launched on the BT Vision platform, offering independent and world cinema releases on the same day as their cinema release, as well as curated seasons and filmmaker retrospectives. Like the BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema will screen The Selfish Giant on October 25. 

Posted 02 October 2013 by Tim Dams
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