TBI’s 2020 Wrap: Fox’s Michael Thorn; Yes Studios’ Danna Stern; CuriosityStream’s Clint Stinchcomb; Nippon TV’s Mikiko Nishiyama; TikTok’s Rich Waterworth

As a tumultuous year for the industry draws to a close, TBI talks to execs from all corners of the world to get their thoughts on the past 12 months and what the year ahead might hold. This is the fourth instalment of a five-part series, which will run every day this week.

Michael Thorn

Michael Thorn, President of Entertainment, Fox Entertainment

What has been your favourite show of the year?

I really enjoyed The Boys. I love the tone, as well as its irreverent and flawed character work. And I thought Aya Cash was brilliant as Stormfront.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

To be clear, I never want the world to experience another 2020 again. But, if there has been any silver lining here, it’s the benefit of time. From a business perspective, our creators and partners have been able to further develop our pilots, build out storylines for our current series and really mine the creative without the urgent pressure of production looming over their shoulders. Now that we are back in production, we’ve really felt the benefit of that focus and plan on implementing more breathing room into our development cycles in the future.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

We are determined to expand our animation brand even further this year. Fox and our studio Bento Box are firmly committed to break the form into genres and formats normally not associated with the space. We have several unique projects in development, including a new series from Rick & Morty co-creator Dan Harmon.  Not to mention, we are very excited to present our next generation of animated properties, including Housebroken, starring Sharon Horgan, and The Great North, with Nick Offerman.

What keeps you awake at night?

Ensuring that our series break through. It’s not enough to just be good these days – you must demand attention. Since each new series competes with not only the current television landscape, but with every program and feature film that’s ever been made – not to mention social media – we believe all of our programming requires a strategic launch and curated approach. It’s something we take very seriously.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

Based on the success of Borat, we’ve opened a satellite office in Kazakhstan.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

I think comedy in all forms, whether it be live-action or animation, will see a bigger break through next year.  Now more than ever, we all need to escape and laugh at ourselves and with each other.

 

Danna Stern

Danna Stern, MD, Yes Studios

What has been your favourite show of the year? 
I May Destroy You – honest, personal and the kind of narratives we’ve been missing as style and scope have overtaken storytelling.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?
That physical human interaction matters; that random, unstructured, talking-over-each-other-with-passion exchanges of ideas are invaluable. I am all Zoomed out.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?
New voices that have been sidelined for way too long and hopefully more women everywhere.

What keeps you awake at night?
Trying to keep abreast of the seismographic changes in our industry that seem to pop out as press releases by giant media nightly (we’re 10 hours from LA); soulless announcements of the abolishment of thousands of jobs, the end of the theatrical experience and film production as we know it, and the constant executive shuffle – many of whom are long-term colleagues, friends and have help found our industry.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?
Indian scripted series are on the rise – an already well-established industry and extremely loved in many parts of the world, Bollywood is poised to come into its own as a scripted series powerhouse fueled by serious producers, an abundance of talent, great storytelling abilities and numerous platforms.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021? 
Non-scripted series which play like dramas and leave audiences with an “I can’t believe that happened in real life” factor and anything feel-good because we deserve it.

 

Clint Stinchcomb

Clint Stinchcomb, President & CEO, CuriosityStream

What has been your favourite show of the year?

Succession, Crown, Ted Lasso, Mindhunter.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Zoom is great, but it’s no substitute for being physically present with others. Being together makes the task of staying connected and aligned far simpler and more effective – and more fun.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

Widespread travel and in-person meetings.

What keeps you awake at night?

Other than my family — subscribers, content and people.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

India.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Factual, of course.

 

Mikiko Nishiyama

Mikiko Nishiyama, MD, International Business Development, Nippon TV

What has been your favourite show of the year?

Covid-19 slowed down the production of new titles, but if I were to name one in the unscripted realm, I would have to say I really like our very own Mute it!. As for scripted content, I May Destroy You became quite the talk of the town, but my personal favourite is The Queen’s Gambit.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Refining our communication styles. In 2020, we began to communicate in new ways both in business and in private. Connecting remotely comes with its own inconveniences, but I am sure many people realised that it can be time-saving and cost effective. These methods are here to stay even post-Covid-19, so I feel we need to be constantly evolving and refining our communication styles to remain effective in getting our points across.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

I believe a lot of fresh and creative ideas got pent up during the time that our movements were restricted by Covid-19. It was also a time to slow down and acquire new knowledge. I look forward to a 2021 where the volume of production returns to past levels, but more importantly, I would like to see those accumulated ideas boil over and get reflected in various new forms of co-productions, with surprising new relationships between countries, stronger partnerships, and content being created through ingenious and innovative methods.

What keeps you awake at night?

You will find me late at night watching and checking various shows and trailers from all sorts of genres across all the platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, and Netflix. I do it to stay knowledgeable for business purposes and to keep abreast of my personal interests. But if you want to know what I lose sleep over, I would have to say, nothing! I am known in the company for being a sleep-deprived person, and I have to say that it is true, though it is rarely because there is something on my mind. Sleep-deprived is just how I have always been and it is my default setting.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

With the Olympics taking place, I would have to say, Japan. It is one of the most global events in the world so it will naturally draw attention to our country, but I also believe that Japan is ready to take advantage of the opportunity that the spotlight brings to be proactive and flourish globally. Japan has tended to be internally-focused, but with how the world has changed, I believe we are ready to take chances and do things in ways we are not used to in the international arena.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Certain topics took center stage in 2020 and I think a lot of people grew weary of them. I believe content that features new ways of creating and maintaining interpersonal relationships, especially those that are optimistic and inspire people to keep moving forward, will be very much welcomed.

 

Richard Waterworth

Richard Waterworth, General Manager, UK & Europe, TikTok

What has been your favourite show of the year?

Not just because of the weekly shoutouts from Claudia, and that they’ve been doing great things on TikTok with @bbcstrictly, but it’s hard to beat Strictly Come Dancing for pure escapism. It’s must-watch TV for so many and a proper family viewing experience, and this year especially it’s been just the fun we needed. I am, however, personally devastated that Ranvir didn’t make the final!

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

That short-form video is an extraordinarily powerful tool for learning. Over the past six months we’ve been collaborating with over 800 creators from educators, experts, real-world skills creators and non-profits to help deliver more learning content on TikTok, backed by a €13m Europe-wide fund.

The most striking example of how impactful educational content in short-form video can be has been #TeamHalo, a group of top scientists and clinicians that have joined forces to tell their incredible stories and show the public what they are up to as they work hard to develop and roll out a Covid-19 vaccine. From the UK, to South Africa, India, Brazil, the US and beyond, scientists all over the world have been posting video updates on TikTok, educating people in an engaging way, while also helping our community stay safe and informed during these challenging times.

What are you most excited to see in 2021?

We’ve started to see it happen at a small scale but I can’t wait to get back to having live audiences at entertainment and sport. In 2020, we’ve all realised how much colour and excitement these events and live audiences bring to our lives, including the viewing experiences that we have at home and on mobile for those of us that can’t be there in person.

 

You can also catch up with our earlier instalments of TBI Wrap 2020. Part one, featuring GloboPlay’s Ana Carolina Lima, ITV Studio’s Julian Bellamy and Starz’s Superna Kalle, can be found here.

Part two, featuring BBC Studio’s Paul Dempsey, Argonon’s James Burstall and White Spark’s Briege Whitehead, can be found here.

Part three, featuring NENT Group’s Filippa Wallestam, Fremantle International’s Jens Richter, Entertainment One’s Noel Hedges and Viu’s Sahana Kamath, can be found here.

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