Sparks Network winds down

The global formats group Sparks Network is ceasing to operate in its current form, with the executives behind it focusing their attention on the growing Eccho Rights distribution business, TBI has learned.

Nicola SoderlundSparks is a network of production companies that develop formats at a local level that are then shared in the group and distributed internationally. However, the raft of consolidation in the international production sector has meant fewer unaffiliated indie producers, undermining the business model.

Sparks Network is part of the Sparks Eccho Group, which also comprises distributor Eccho Rights and formats and production units Eccho Line and Eccho Remakes.

Sparks co-founder and Sparks Network managing director Nicola Söderlund (left) told TBI this morning that the focus will now be on distribution. “For us it is a logical step as our distribution arm, Eccho Rights, has grown its turnover three-fold in the past three years.”

Industry sources had told TBI that Sparks was in the process of closing, although Söderlund said it may continue in a different form and its backers are looking at other ways of continuing some of its activities.

“We’re not closing Sparks, we’re putting it on hold and rethinking the business because there is still a need for an agent and someone to fulfil a premium partner role for [content companies] as distribution, coproduction and financing becomes increasingly complex.”

Sparks members, which are limited to one per territory, have included Turkey’s Ay Yapim, France’s Coyote Conseil, Germany’s Def Media, the UK’s Zig Zag Productions, Italy’s Elephant and Zebra in Spain. In Asia members have included Shanghai-based Idea Asia Media, Imagic in the Middle East and Somos in Latin America.

A raft of consolidation has seen the number of truly independent companies dwindle and among those left, many are tied into development and sales deals with large distributors. ‘There are a lot less indies out there now; in Scandinavia, for example, there is hardly anyone,” Söderlund said.

He created Sparks with Fredrik af Malmborg in 2004. In 2012 former Kanakna boss Ludo Poppe’s Ecchomedia acquired a majority stake and Sparks Network was subsequently split into the formats alliance and sales wing Eccho Rights.

Eccho Rights key entertainment properties include Peking Express and Exit. Its drama line-up includes Turkish dramas The End and Ezel.