London TV Screenings Insights: Kelly Wright, MD of distribution, Keshet International

Conflict (Source: Keshet International)

Ahead of buyers landing in the UK for London TV Screenings and BBC Studios Showcase next week, TBI has talked to the bosses of more than 25 distribution companies to test the temperature of the global content industry and to find out how the next 12 months are shaping up.

Here, Kelly Wright, MD of distribution at Keshet International, discusses the changing strategies handing her company more commissioning power, the opportunities in a strong slate of international IP and the need for greater collaboration.

Kelly Wright (Source: Keshet International)

What three words would you use to describe the state of the TV/streaming industry as a whole right now?

Industry-wide metamorphosis.

What three words would you use to describe the state of the distribution sector right now?

Solution-focused collaboration.

With fewer shows being commissioned, how are you securing your pipeline?

To complement our laser-focused acquisitions’ strategy, we’ve launched a new initiative called ‘Greenlight: Factual and Formats’ to commission content directly from producers for distribution. Woodcut Media’s Catch Me If You Can is our first fully-funded commission, and we hope to announce another one at the London TV Screenings, followed by a raft of co-commissions.

As distributors, we’re also doing more shopping, which is exciting because it puts us at the commissioning table. We’re no longer the partner who comes in at the end of the financing chain to deficit and distribute; we now help determine and influence which shows get commissioned, by either co-financing or matching potential co-production partners together. Local producers and broadcasters look to Keshet International for our insights into and experience in international markets – to know who may be interested in partnering, and where each type of content will be most highly valued.

What is the single biggest difference in the discussions you’re having with buyers today compared with 12 months ago?

Almost no single buyer can solely commission a show anymore. A mixture of increasing budgets and decreasing willingness to take risks that means that buyers around the world, even at the top of the industry food chain, need to be more collaborative.

How do you expect global streamer demands for rights to change in 2024 compared with 2023?

It’s not a change, but more an affirmation of what has already been a part of streamer negotiations, which is more control over the brands and the IP – everything from holdbacks to second windows to ancillary rights. Even if they have no plans to exploit the rights they take on, they don’t want anyone else to have access to them. I think this speaks to the competition across the verticals – and the investment they’re making in brands as opposed to shows.

False Flag (Source: Keshet International)

Where does opportunity lie for you in 2024?

Our opportunity lies in the fact that we have really strong international IP. Because so many verticals are so interested in making brands their own, established brands like Deal With It!, Boom!, Prisoners Of War and False Flag are really valued. We are still seeing the power in that. Another big opportunity for us is that we are now behaving more and more like a studio – so we’re involved more and more in how shows get made, from our role as non-writing creative EPs through production and production financing, and naturally all the way through to distribution. I think we’ll be looking to lean more into those kinds of collaborations in 2024.

Tell us in no more than two sentences about the biggest problem facing the distribution industry and what needs to change so it can be overcome.

1) (Excluding tape sales) The creation of new IP is extremely complex now. There are no straightforward, single-buyer deals anymore (and if you do land those rare deals, those buyers expect to scoop up all of the rights, sometimes without separate fees and premiums).

2) Human resources. If costs keep rising, then the natural reaction is to cut back on expenses – which means laying off your staff. Who is going to manage the IP then – acquire it, create it, manage it, program it, analyze it? We are basically playing right into the hands of AI.

Tell us about your top show at London Screenings & why we should buy it

We are really excited about an eight-part drama called Conflict that we’ve just picked up from Backmann & Hoderoff. It’s a high-budget, slickly produced, cinematic-looking thriller about a proxy war being waged on Europe from a peaceful coastal town, which is taken hostage, in Finland. With nearly half the script in English, it feels incredibly timely in terms of geopolitics right now, and also very cleverly doesn’t identify a specific enemy, giving it universal appeal, while also heightening both the mystery and the thrill.

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