Sister’s Jane Featherstone talks up ‘reignited distribution’ opportunity as industry faces ‘painful correction’

LR: Jane Featherstone, Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider

The industry is facing a “painful” correction as streamers rein in spending, according to Sister co-CEO Jane Featherstone, who also talked up the opportunities around distribution as the industry evolves away from exclusive deals.

Featherstone, whose company has been behind hits such as Chernobyl, The Split and This Is Going To Hurt since launching in 2015, said the pandemic and streamers were just two factors behind the scripted inflationof recent years but added that there “needs to be a correction”.

The Split

The former Kudos boss continued: “That is happening and it will be painful for a while. but the industry has always been extremely smart in finding ways of working together to make projects work.”

Streamers are also increasingly happy to share rights, she said, because the original projects that had been kept excluisve to build brands were now not quite so necessary as the industry matures.

“Now, [the streamers] have extremely unique and clear brands, they can share more in order to make the sums add up and that is really a healthy place to be in.”

Featherstone also did not rule out a move into distribution for her fast-growing company, which is backed by Elisabeth Murdoch, amongst others.

“There is far more space for traditional distribution but in a modern digital way so who knows [if Sister will launch a dedicated sales arm]. We are riding along the wave and we are nimble and independent and we’ll see where it takes us, but I do think the distribution model will be reignited in a serious way with the FAST channels. The days of exclusivity in perpetuity are probably numbered.”

Featherstone admitted, however, that a pull-back in spending from the likes of HBO and AMC would impact the European industry.

“Look at AMC, they were production partners on Gangs Of London, The Split and This Is Going To Hurt and now they’re not doing any of those – or they might be doing one.


“They were fantastically important to us, as were HBO, and while a few of those opportunities might still be there with HBO, we will find other ways,” she said, pointing to burgeoning relationships with ITVX and BritBox. “There is Paramount+, Peacock and other ways to partner up. You have to be nimble and we can react quickly because we dont have a corporate structure.”

The Sister exec, whose co-founder and exec chairman Elisabeth Murdoch was in the audience as the company received the Variety International Achievement award, added that producers had to stick to “bold” dramas, despite the surging demand from streamers for franchise shows.

“We have to hold our nerve. Audiences will get bored with repeated material that is the same. That doesn’t mean there isn’t real room for a procedural that has a story of the week that is full of characters you love – Yellowstone is brilliant, I love that show and procedurals.

“But you can’t just have that, you need to innovate and take risks. [Streamers] know that, but they are shoring up again so as producers we have to run the tightrope of giving people what they want but also surprising them.”

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