Name: Jeff Ford
Title: managing director, Fox International Channels UK
Industry veteran Jeff Ford joined FIC UK after leaving Irish broadcaster TV3 to spend more time with his family. Known for having a keen eye for US acquisitions, his remit includes overseeing the local FOX, National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD and Baby TV channels.
TBI: What is unique about the Fox International Channels and what should buyers know in advance?
JF: The FIC channels in the UK cater for different audiences, offering diverse experiences to viewers and many opportunities to providers of content. National Geographic Channel shows broad documentaries covering high end subjects like the recent mission to Pluto (Mission Pluto), through to populist shows like Car SOS and Aircrash Investigation.
Nat Geo Wild is simply the best place for blue chip wildlife programming, while FOX’s drama offering is second to none. With the mantra of ‘First On FOX’ and shows like The Walking Dead (pictured below) we have the best from the US straight after their transmission stateside. We are also creating more of our own content out of LA and Europe.
TBI: Should producers and distributors be seeking out acquisitions people at a local level or is buying handled centrally? Who are the key buyers within your team?
JF: For FOX in the UK it’s Toby Etheridge and for Nat Geo its Maggie Rhodes, who buys centrally.
TBI: When are the key times during the year you commission or acquire series?
JF: It’s an all-year cycle for commissions and acquisitions. We are always open for business!
JF: Like most channels in the UK, 8pm-11pm are our most important slots; that’s where are high profile shows are launched. However, post 11pm on FOX we have always been the home of Seth MacFarlane’s animated comedy, meaning 16-24 viewers come to us every night.
TBI: What is the relationship between the local Fox and Fox Networks Group programming teams? Do you work together on projects?
JF: The relationship is excellent. Whatever the channel, globally we are part of the decision making process, or are leading negotiations if that is best for the group.
TBI: What is the model for acquiring content? What appeals most in terms of content and rights availability?
JF: When we acquire we ensure we have rights that our viewers require. They don’t always want to consume content when it’s scheduled, so we ensure that it is available for them in catch-up, download, side-load or series stack. In terms of what content we buy, it’s what fits the brand, although we are looking to take FOX a little broader – hence the recent acquisition of Marvel’s Agent Carter from Disney (pictured).
TBI: What are you really looking for at the moment, is there a genre or specific type of programme you have on your shopping list?
JF: The best programming that fits the genres we acquire for across the channels. I love events and high profile pieces for National Geographic Channel and exciting, breath-taking drama for Fox.
TBI: Which of the programming markets do you find the most productive?
JF: The LA Screenings are the best, but if the studios/networks commit to all-year-round commissioning then it may well change.
TBI: What was your read on the LA Screenings this year? Where are the strengths and weaknesses of studio shows in a general sense?
JF: I don’t think it had the big stand out show as most years do, but generally the quality was good so there seems to be perhaps more to go round for the buyers. However, there are still a lot more shows to see.
JF: From a brand and viewer perspective, The Walking Dead on FOX and the in-house commissioned Cosmos (above) on National Geographic Channel.
TBI: What acquired shows will you launch in the next few weeks/months?
JF: The most exciting launch will be a commission on FOX through Fox International Studios, our production studios owned by FIC, Outcast. This is Robert Kirkman’s new original show which launches in the next year. I’ve seen it… And it is scary! Viewers will love it.
TBI: What types of on-demand rights do you require?
JF: As I mentioned earlier, all the rights that our viewers need to consume content when they want to.
TBI: What sorts of windows are you buying for?
JF: We don’t particularly buy with windows in mind. We like exclusivity.
TBI: What is the key challenge facing buyers in today’s market?
JF: There is so much competition in a fragmenting market, not just linear but from OTT services, which is one part of the challenge. Being able to secure rights that are needed for our customers can equally be as much of a challenge.