TBI Weekly: Who cares about your content?! (Part II)

Brat Camp

Following last month’s focus on distributors, format expert Siobhan Crawford turns her attention to broadcasters & streamers and how to get the most from partnering with the right buyer.

Last month, I began my ‘Who Cares About Your Content?!’ strand of articles by exploring the role of distributors and it seems to have resonated with many. Now, let’s look to the next group… the broadcasters.

Siobhan Crawford

Getting in line with linear demands

As distributors, it is the linear broadcasters we are almost solely reliant on for content. They are commissioning more experimental programming for their VOD players, which is repopulating the distributors’ catalogues and with which creators have the highest hopes of retaining IP. But recommissioning is high.

The large prodco groups are producing a disproportionate amount of their content and quotas are required by some broadcasters to work with the independents. It is also becoming harder for distributors and content creators to agree to the commercial demands of the broadcasters  – seven-year licenses, holdbacks for the duration of license periods, broadcaster participation in IP of a format if new and if a broadcaster has a distributor attached then independent production houses are obliged to put any new commissions with that distributor.

So be smart with your commercial negotiations and reward recommissions and not single-series commissions: play with holdback language, get licenses down to five or six years with extensions to the license period for each recommissioned series, and be tight around rights reversions.

Broadcaster or one-stop shop?

Broadcasters and streamers are increasingly developing content through internal IP creation units. And I do not mean in-house productions, it is bigger than that – it is units for the creation of a catalogue of IP that can be tested on a channel and then exported via the affiliated distribution house or circulated around the streamer.

Be smart with your commercial negotiations and reward recommissions and not single-series commissions

An example is RTL with their Format Creation Unit, distributed by Fremantle. The creation of such companies mean the need for third-party content and production is reduced. One reason is revenue, but another is control; retain IP, no bidding wars and always get the rights you want! Be prepared for more of these to pop up as we continue in this phase of mergers and acquisitions.

Streamers & their relationship with formats

This is a big problem in our industry. Streamers are important but so are the ways they acquire formats.

Problem 1 –  they acquire ‘original’ formats that are derivatives to circumvent any messy rights issues (ie the Snowflake Mountain vs Brat Camp debate).

Problem 2 – they are taking as many territories as they can for one version of a format, knowing full well their local offices refuse local adaptions of the same. This is a huge issue. Keeping with the Snowflake Mountain example –  it means Fremantle can only make this format for Netflix. All the R&D to only be allowed one version. Is it sustainable for producers?

Problem 3 – some streamers are commissioning for a single territory BUT they want regional streaming rights for the one off 5% format fee – so you would lose your tape revenue from those territories and you severely reduce your chances of local commissions in those now non-exclusive territories.

Yes, I understand a US budget is large and therefore producers fee + license fee (if you are a group company) is a good thing, but not all deals are for the US. Some streamers are being selective with territories, like HBO Max, and some streamers pay for additional streaming rights, it’s just not discussed – so ask!

Funds – friend or foe?

I have a problem with format funds the more I hear about them. Why am I bothered? Because a lot of broadcasters and streamers acquire paper content and retain IP, they just don’t announce funds – they call it acquisitions!

And if a format comes from a group, like The Traitors from All3, you know they are not sharing IP or distribution with the BBC/NBC fund. So differing treatment is evident for the groups and independents.

Also what’s the difference from traditional distribution? Advertising? Fox want to partner with MIP Formats – pay $5k to the winner for development and then they get to pitch worldwide. That is the easiest, cheapest acquisition and development of a format ever.

A lot of broadcasters and streamers acquire paper content and retain IP, they just don’t announce funds – they call it acquisitions!

Then you have NBC and the BBC. The BBC only want submissions from the UK producers, just another example of how isolationist the UK is when it comes to formats. If you put aside the commercial set up of these deals (50/50 IP, distribution dictated, loss of creative control), then at the core of a decision to work with a fund it should be about ‘who’ is working with my content. Money does not equal love (which is good because you will be getting a lot less with these deal structures).

Fundamentally you have to ask who is running these schemes and if you want to go to one, why not go to the heart of formats and go Dutch? With Talpa at least you know you have the most aggressive, format-minded people in your corner. We talk about a people industry…

We acknowledge the problems facing the broadcasters and streamers today, however, they must accept the huge stress placed on distributors, prodcos and content creators to meet their demands if they want their commissions. It is not sustainable, because we don’t want to sustain this.

Siobhan Crawford has almost two decade’s experience in unscripted format distribution and has worked at DRG, Zodiak and Banijay. She is currently head of sales & acquisitions at Benelux format distributor Primitives.

Tags: Primitives

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