Until September last year, David Haslingden was Fox’s top channels executive, running its US and international networks and after two decades at the News Corp he left, only to emerge back into the spotlight in February when it transpired he had taken over Natural History New Zealand. Australia’s Northern Pictures was then added and a joint venture formed with Israel’s Keshet.
“Yes, becoming a super indie is the goal,” Haslingden told TBI in June. “The strategy of the super indies is essentially correct. The logic is having a strong local relevance, but with scale.”
Shine, FremantleMedia, All3, Zodiak and Banijay – you have been warned.
After the success of several Scandi dramas, it was French producers’ turn to take the spotlight. Admittedly the success was largely limited to Haut et Cort’s Les Revenants (The Returned), which was the first subtitled drama on Channel 4 in the UK for two decades. The Canal+ drama was also bought by Bell in Canada, SBS in Australia and Sundance in the US. Short form comedy Bref was another French show having success on an English channel with US cable net Pivot buying the cult hit. Zut alor! (Please pardon our French.)
2013 IN YOUR WORDS: Kirstie McLure, managing director, Pioneer productions
Duck Dynasty is a stand out US show of 2013 – it’s all there in one neat 30 minutes programme – comedy, drama, life lessons and challenges – all couched in brilliantly written scripts. This show is often criticised because of the lifestyle that the Robertson family lead – however, the audience is looking for amusing and entertaining viewing and they are tuning in in their droves with its popularity still growing.
It is not the golden age of TV drama, Amazon Studios boss Roy Price (below) told TBI in October. “We’ve had a couple of those already, haven’t we?,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be calling it the Silicon Age in a few years from now.” Amazon endeavoured to support that claim with a slew of original series distributed via its Prime Instant and Lovefilm services.
Unlike its chief rival Netflix, Amazon started out with a slew of comedies before moving on to drama. Perhaps aware that laughers don’t fit the binge-viewing model as well as drama – the whole is arguably often less than the sum of the parts when watching multiple episodes of a comedy whereas the opposite is true of a serialised drama – Amazon eschewed Netflix’s release-it-all-at-once model and is putting out its originals in batches and singles eps after deciding through its viewers’ feedback (sort of) what it was actually commissioning. Power to the people, indeed.
2013 IN YOUR WORDS: Bo Stehmeier, managing director of distribution, Off the Fence
My favourite response to a content pitch in 2013 was “Don`t pitch me shows, pitch me solutions!” It has become clear that there are less staff looking after the constantly growing portfolios of linear channels; particularly on DTT and Pay. This new breed of executives look for one-stop shops to help them fill their enormous scheduling needs and this route can offer long term programming solutions.
Amazon’s Roy Price again: “I do not imagine [traditional TV producers and] people are scared if there are one or two more entities in a market of many, and only producing so many shows,” he told TBI. “I don’t see rivalry but do see some opportunity to work together. If it’s a studio, we could produce together or we could license a show to a network in the right window or they could license something to us.”
Nancy Tellem (left, with Price) agreed – and is as qualified as anyone to comment as the former chief of the CBS broadcast network and now head of Microsoft Studios and responsible for original content for the Xbox platform? Talking about what Xbox can do that broadcasters can’t she also noted that in “traditional media companies interactivity has always been clunky and after the fact.” But striking a more conciliatory tone, she told TBI in October: “We’re not cannibalising TV, we’re augmenting it and elevating it relative to linear content. They should respect Xbox’s hope to create an enhanced, differentiated content experience.”
Bryan Robbins completed the trio of executives running companies threatening TV channels that claimed everyone can co-exist. Robbins is the Kids in the Hall star-turned director-turned digital entrepreneur that founded online channel AwesomenessTV, which was subsequently acquired by DreamWorks. But Awesomeness is not (intentionally) setting out to take on kids and teen linear channels, at least according to its founder, who says its content is about “filling little spaces” while on the school bus or waiting in a movie queue. He also noted that Awesomeness’ web traffic is equal to or better than that of Nickelodeon.
2013 IN YOUR WORDS: John Morayniss, CEO, eOne Television
2013 was the year that saw continued growth in domestic and international digital and OTT platforms commissioning and buying high-end series content both from local producers/suppliers and through global coproductions.
Regardless of all of that, broadcasters and cable platforms are decidedly, well undecided about their cool, new digital colleagues. That clash – new media vs. traditional, digital vs. terrestrial, OTT vs. pay TV – will surely define what our review of television in 2014 (and even our review of 2024) reads like. Unless we all watch content via digital signals transmitted our implanted Google Glass displays by then, of course.
2013 IN YOUR WORDS: Chris Hilton, CEO, Essential Media and Entertainment
2013 has been the year of the international drama format sales: From international remakes of successful series in their home territories, programs such as The Bridge, The Returned, and Essential Media’s Rake are all good examples of increased international appetite for quality TV drama.