Exclusive: Belinda Menendez on NBCU sales line-up & “creative” FAST deals

Based On A True Story

As this year’s LA Screenings draws to a close, buyers are preparing to wave a fond farewell to the Hollywood Sign and head home – while onlookers await the ensuing sales announcements as a slew of new shows hit the market.

NBCU Global Distribution’s key titles this year included mystery drama series Apples Never Fall, starring Annette Bening, and based on the book by Liane Moriarty, author of Big Little Lies, which was previously adapted for HBO.

Buyers making it out to LA this week also got the chance to take a look at dark comedic thriller, Based On A True Story, starring Kaley Cuoco and Chris Messina; and drama series The Irrational, starring Jesse L. Martin.

Ted, a comedy prequel series to the feature films about a foul-mouthed teddy bear, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, is also on the slate, alongside period drama limited series Mary & George, starring Julianne Moore; The Lovers, a darkly romantic comedic drama; and The Americas, an epic odyssey across Earth’s only supercontinent, narrated by Tom Hanks, with music by Hans Zimmer.

Belinda Menendez, president and chief revenue officer for NBCU Global Distribution, hails the slate as “an amazing lineup” and tells TBI she is “confident our buyers feel the same.”

Belinda Menendez

Shows ‘in the can’

It’s fair to say that this year’s LA Screenings has been overshadowed by the WGA strike. As Menendez notes: “A strike negatively impacts the entire industry, especially at a time when we are just starting to recover from the pandemic.”

However, the exec assures that NBCU Global Distribution is “in a very good position by being part of such a strong company like NBCUniversal.” She tells TBI that she hopes to “allay any of our buyers’ concerns with the fact that we have numerous new series ‘in the can’ that are unaffected by the current strike situation.

“Further, the range of the series we’re showcasing this year is unmatched; from procedurals and global event series to standout comedies based on renowned theatrical IP, and more.”

Mary & George

Creative dealmaking

Menendez adds that the changing distribution landscape, with the expanding direct-to-consumer model and rise of FAST channels has pushed the company to be “more creative when it comes to structuring our deals,” with the exec explaining “ultimately, we’re embracing it and view it as another opportunity/platform that we can license our content and brands to.”

So far as these newest shows go, rights vary title by title, reveals Menendez: “For example, we have worldwide rights, excluding the US, on Apples Never Fall, Based On A True Story, The Irrational, Ted and The Americas.

“For Mary & George, we have worldwide rights, with the exception of [Comcast sibling] Sky’s European territories, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India; and for The Lovers, we have worldwide rights with the exception of Sky’s European territories, the US and Canada.”

So plenty of potential deals for interested buyers to get stuck into in the coming weeks.

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