Global production groups including Fremantle and ITV Studios (ITVS) are shifting strategies when it comes to selling scripted shows into the US, with deficit financing increasing.
Christian Vesper, Fremantle’s president of global drama, and ITVS’s EVP of global content Julie Meldal-Johnson both outlined how the funding of drama was evolving during a panel session at Series Mania today.
Vesper pointed to shows from his stable such as Anna, the Niccolo Ammaniti series that was produced for Sky Italia by Fremantle-owned Wildside, with Arte France, Fremantle, the New Life Company and Kwaï co-producing.
AMC+ then took US rights, followed by Disney+ across a swathe of Europe, and Vesper said for Fremantle, it is increasingly making “more sense” to deficit finance the “US chunk” up front, so shows can then be sold into the Stateside market.
“We love getting that deficit financing in place [early] too because it speeds the whole process up,” he added, while ITVS’s Meldal-Johnson highlighted how Vigil, from ITV-owned World Productions, followed a similar path.
NBCUniversal’s streamer Peacock bought that show after its production and the ITVS exec added that financing up front and then selling into the US has put a new emphasis on relationships with agents and talent partners.
“It means you can greenlight and then you can still always have conversations soon afterwards,” she added.
Vesper said that Fremantle, which has been in acquisitive mood of late and most recently bought Italy’s Lux Vide, is also increasing its deficit financing activity on non-English language shows, too.
He added that whilst it is potentially harder because of justifying returns, it can be a more straightforward bet because budgets tend to be smaller.
The session – titled Creativity: The bigger, the better? – also saw execs from Banijay, Asacha Media and Federation Entertainment discuss how their companies have been attempting to attract talent.
Lars Blomgren, head of scripted at Banijay, said the France-based group’s approach is designed to provide creative headroom that might not exist on overall deals with a streamer, for example.
“We’re streamer agnostic, but it can be a challenge for a creative person if they [strike an overall deal] with a single SVOD. We can have discussions about the best home for a project, for example,” he said.
The exec, whose company acquired Romulus producer Grøenlandia Group yesterday, added that streamers “have gone full circle” on the types of deals they’ve been striking with creatives, while Marina Williams of Asacha also pointed out that companies such as hers can be more flexible on commercial deals.
This, in turn, can offer more flexibility to creatives who want to work with Asacha, the former Endemol Shine exec added, while Federation Entertainment’s Lionel Uzan said that US studios have also been “fighting back” recently, adding more competition for talent.
“[US studios] were so focused on US shows, but now they are looking onto European ground. They are looking to come here and hope to grab talents to work with them,” he said, providing both a challenge but also an opportunity for companies such as his.
Vesper added that Fremantle’s recent focus had seen it put energy into working with film directors, a tactic that was also now helping it attract a wider pool of producers, while Meldal-Johnson said that companies such as ITVS meant creatives could be more flexible in the types of shows they work on because they are not working for only one buyer.