What’s the best way of doing business with the US networks? At next week’s Televisual Factual Festival (Oct 24-25) a group of producers and commissioners will share their experience of working in the US. Here’s a preview of what they’ll be talking about

Simon Andreae, SVP development and production, Discovery US
Above all, the US market is about creating enduring franchises, from Idol and The Voice to Pawn Stars and the Real Housewives. The networks need a critical mass of episodes both to monetise their investment and to get it noticed. The producers similarly need volume since in an unfavorable I.P. environment, volume is often the chief way to turn a profit. Ultimately, the secret to success for both is reasonably simple: big, noisy formats with multiple revenue streams for broadcast, and great characters within great worlds for cable – plus the knowledge and tenacity to strike the best possible deals at the point of purchase or sale.

Stephen Lambert, chief executive, Studio Lambert

If you’re worried about a swelling bottom line and don’t know how to stop making so much profit, then setting up in America is probably just the thing for you. It’s a great place to lose money, lots of it. US buyers are very demanding. Their business affairs people are extremely tough. US productions need twice as many people as UK ones and they are all paid at least twice as much. Those who like to take big risks will probably see a healthy reduction in that swollen bottom line. Wiser Brits who don’t like losing money will want to partner with an established US production company, ideally one that is an Anglo/US company.

Nick Powell, MD, Ricochet Television
One of the key things about making factual shows in the US is that they have to be produced as high octane entertainment shows with heart and drama. If they don’t deliver strongly on both levels they tend not to stay on air for long, so translating a UK hit into a US hit often means not being too precious about your original creative vision. Hitting the sweet spot of the network’s needs can be a highly exacting process but when you get it right the audience sticks, and there is nothing better than seeing repeat orders of high volume series.

Dimitri Doganis, founder/MD, Raw TV

Going to the US and trying to get our heads around the differences between here and there was a brutal process of re-education. There are superficial similarities with the UK that mask significant cultural differences – in terms of what works for American networks and viewers, and also in the whole production process from initial presentation, to successful pitch and all the way through to delivery. But there are also great opportunities there and, if you are able to make a few simple changes to how you operate, there are even significant advantages to being a British producer in the US market place.

For more details about the festival, see www.televisual.com/festival

Jon Creamer

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