Avi Nir: a contribution to content

Keshet Media Group CEO Avi Nir is the first winner of the Content Innovation Awards Contribution to Content gong. He tells TBI about the meteoric rise of the Keshet business.

Could you have predicted the international success of Keshet today?
I couldn’t have predicted it, but I definitely believed it would go places. It was very clear to me back then that we had an ongoing supply of original, fresh ideas and that we would continue to have more. We also saw the writing on the wall with the increasing international demand for high-end dramas.

Simultaneously, the paradigm has shifted and the video world has gotten flatter, in the sense that it has grown more agnostic to the language of the original, as long as the show itself is brilliant. The new ecosystem has presented a rare opportunity for Keshet.

How do you keep a business like Keshet evolving and profitable?
It starts with the organizational culture. We are notorious for an almost neurotic inability to celebrate, but rather to ask ourselves ‘What is the next challenge ahead?’ We have managed to position ourselves as the most watched channel in Israel – in fact, just last week, Keshet won all ten top spots in the weekly ratings charts – so, we’re celebrating this for literally no more than a few minutes  and  bizarrely rejoice by  setting the bar even higher for next year.

Apart from that, Keshet is a creative organization which means constantly innovating on all fronts. It is not only about pushing and supporting our creators and shows, it is also about reinventing some business patterns and models.

This year, for example, we approached financial institutions in Israel and successfully raised money for a new fund with the objective of deficit funding international shows with global appeal. This has never been done before in Israel. Being an all-around entrepreneurial enterprise gives you the juice you need as an ever-evolving business that creates value.

With Keshet’s consistent expansion, how do you divide up your time?
I have this trick that allows me to expand my time: staying in touch with people on multiple time zones. It allows you to work more hours. At night you don’t need to bother people in Israel, you can call LA.

Seriously, this year I had to reallocate my time and focus more on Israel. We had to launch Keshet as a brand new channel and we have decided to do so with a slate full of new shows. It’s panned out really well – we’ve become Israel’s leading channel by a handsome margin, which now allows me to spend much more time on our international shows and business. I love the development stage, whether it’s a new drama or a reality show. This is where I can support the executives and creators most.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the business today?
I always ask new hires if they are television enthusiasts or buffs. Unlike other businesses, we are dealing with content. Content means essence. You’ve got to love it. First and foremost you have to have passion for the thing itself – love thy content and then take care of business.

As we approach the conclusion to Homeland, how does it feel to have been part of such a popular series?
It’s a phenomenon. Creatively, it only gets better and younger. I am reluctant to look back on this evergreen, ever-relevant show. Looking at it from afar, it has in it the ability to stay on for a few more seasons, but it is up to those who actually do it.

In your opinion, what makes for good international content?
Simply put, very good local content can be the starting point of a good international content. You need the instigator – the original IP – and then you need the miracle of re-birth or the second coming. Another creator at another corner of the earth has to make his own show triggered by an existing show.

I think we were blessed with creators who are high-quality writers that inspire others. They don’t strive to do that originally – they want to tell their story. But it then resonates and inspires others. Usually because there is this brilliant stem cell in the original.

We are also fortunate to have a channel where we can let these creators have a go. We are ready to go the whole nine yards with them on a fresh creative endeavour. This year we took a big chance with When Heroes Fly, The Stylist and The Showdown and it has really paid off for all of us.

What is the next move? 
As always with Keshet, there are all kinds of moves in progress. We have a number of extremely exciting new shows coming up to the surface in various countries right now, which we will be able to announce in the following months.

Also, we are now looking to expand, not only organically, as we have done in our past. In recent years, we’ve had our share of M&As – last year we acquired Tresor in Germany and earlier this year, a majority share in Greenbird Media in the UK.

We are very happy with those moves and we totally see the synergy potential ahead. We have a great fountain of IP, increasing production cabilities and we realize that we can substantially accelerate our own growth, and theirs, with new and beneficial relationships with the right partners.