TBI’s forward thinkers: Top execs reflect on 2019 and offer 2020 predictions

(L to R) Nina Lederman, Francoise Guyonnet and Superna Kalle

TBI speaks to leading execs from across the content business as they reflect on 2019 and discuss their predictions at the start of a new decade.

Nina Lederman, EVP, global scripted development & programming, Sony Pictures Television

How do you think the imminent launch of streamers such as HBO Max and Peacock will impact the traditional US studio business?
Having two new platforms gives producers and studios like Sony more opportunities to sell series. Given that both of these are new, they will need a lot of content, especially in the early years. Although both of these streamers are part of larger media conglomerates, both are also looking outside of their silos for the best content for their respective brands.

What has most surprised you about the global drama business over the past 12 months?
I’ve been surprised that packaging TV series has become the norm. It has become evident that producers are relying on IP, casting, A-list writers and elevated auspices to get their project noticed in an effort to break through the clutter. Given how competitive the drama landscape has become, buyers are looking for extraordinary projects and packaging elements is a way to de-risk the decision making.

What show of the past 12 months most surprised you and why?
The Israeli series Shtisel is a perfect local language series. It’s in Hebrew and Yiddish, and a drama with cultural authenticity and specificity that transports you into the world of an Orthodox Jewish family in Israel. It is engaging and relatable with universal themes of family, religion, and love. Even though the world is unique and specific to the Orthodox culture, it resonates on many levels and makes it extremely accessible.

Francoise Guyonnet, Executive managing director, TV series, StudioCanal

How do you predict the commissioning behaviour of streamers and broadcasters will change over the next 12 months?
They are looking for more and more “event” series. These maybe smaller in terms of episodes but with bigger production values. IP and brand awareness are a big asset.

What is the biggest challenge for non-English language drama in the coming year?
To reach English-speaking territories. Our content travels everywhere but the English-speaking countries remain a challenge for non-English speaking series.

How will the recently launched US-based streamers (and those yet to launch) affect the business in 2020?
It’s an opportunity for us to produce more content and develop more partnerships.

Superna Kalle, EVP of international digital networks, Starz

How will Starz’s growth strategy fare in 2020 against intense competition?
Our strategy has always been that we are not here to compete with other streaming services, but rather complement them, and we are priced in a way that allows distributors and consumers to think of us that way as well. With that strategy in place, we anticipate continued excellent growth in 2020.

What is your single biggest concern for the future growth of your streamer into 2020?
I wouldn’t call this a concern, but more of a focus – we’re thrilled with the expansion we’ve seen in the last year, and right now one of our areas of focus is developing and acquiring more content that speaks to our expanding local audiences. Continuing to integrate our service and deepening our relationships in the local markets with this content is one of our foremost ambitions for 2020 and beyond.

Do you expect to see SVOD consolidation over the next year?
If there is anything to take away from the landscape this year and what we are seeing for the year ahead, it’s that consolidation and building scale is on trend. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of that in the next year.

What has been the most overlooked aspect of the streaming evolution of the past few years, and how will this play into 2020?
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect is how streaming is in fact becoming television – with the larger players attempting to be everything to everyone, as basic broadcast has always been, and bundles being created to add on premium content. That’s why I think our strategy of being a complement versus a competitor is so valuable right now, because we take the pressure off of the consumer to have to choose between us and them. Instead of either/or, you can have it all.