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Amazon & ITV team ‘but SVOD model ending’

Jane FeatherstoneA veteran British producer has warned cosy coproduction arrangements between American SVOD services and UK broadcasters will soon end, comments that come as Amazon Prime Video snaps up rights to a new ITV drama.

Sister Pictures founder and former Shine UK chairman Jane Featherstone (pictured) used her BAFTA Television Lecture in London on Monday to claim the likes of Amazon and Netflix will soon refuse to entertain co-commissions with the likes of the BBC and ITV.

Featherstone was instrumental in getting SundanceTV to invest in British sci-fi drama Humans, which Channel 4 originally commissioned.

Her comments came as Amazon took US rights to commercial broadcaster ITV’s newly announced drama White Dragon, which is from Liar prodco Two Brothers Pictures and is sold by All3Media International.

The show will star John Simm (Life of Mars) as a grief-stricken professor who travels to Hong Kong to retrieve the body of his wife, with the police reaction leading him to believe there is more to the story.

The financial agreement sees the show debut on ITV in the UK before exclusively launching on Amazon in the US, and is the latest such example of American TV companies helping British dramas into production in exchange for rights.

Featherstone, the former Kudos CEO behind dramas such as The Tunnel, Spooks and Broadchurch, claims such deals will trickle away in the next 18 months.

She noted Netflix was currently funding as much as 80% of some BBC shows, with premium cable networks HBO and AMC often providing between 20% and 30%, and added ITV was following suit with dramas such as Marcella, which Netflix co-funded.

“I’m not the first person to say this… that honeymoon period? Consider it over,” she warned.

“Up until this point, this co-funding has meant relatively subtle changes to the kinds of dramas being commissioned – perhaps they’re a little bigger and more globally facing. Henceforth, that subtlety will be replaced by less nuanced behaviour.

“We know, because they’ve told us, that the SVODs are going to start ramping up commissioning of only fully owned original programmes, meaning that they won’t need to coproduce any more.

“Why keep investing in shows where they don’t own the territory most likely to make that show a hit? It doesn’t make sense for them. The coproduction tap is going to be turned off, or at least reduced to a trickle.”

Featherstone claimed this was already happening, pointing to Netflix’s wholly owned royal-themed drama The Crown and recent commission The Innocents (WT), which TBI first revealed news of in August.

“I reckon we have a year or 18 months before the big FAANG [Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google] players stop coproducing entirely, except maybe for very specific talent-driven content.

“With such deep pockets to reach into, why go through the hassle of sharing with traditional British broadcasters?”