London TV Screenings Insights: Poppy McAllister, head of Content Operations, TVF International

Poppy McAllister

As buyers flock to the UK for London TV Screenings and BBC Studios Showcase this week, TBI talks 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.

In this installment, we hear from Poppy McAllister, head of Content Operations, TVF International.

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

Dynamic, evolving, turbulent

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

Invigorated, determined, innovative

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

Our pipeline is looking strong with a brand new slate of over 60 new and completed hours of factual programming, just three months after we launched 200 hours at MIPCOM. While the wider industry has felt the dry spell in commissioning from the UK & U.S., the TVF slate represents a much broader roster of producers from Asia, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of which are finding innovative ways to produce high quality programming. For the London Screenings we have a strong focus on high quality current affairs documentaries, such as Supernova: The Music Festival Massacre (1 x 32/52) for ZDF/ARTE which looks at the events of October 7th in Israel, MH370: A Decade On (1 x 48) CNA and Bay of Blood: The Bangladesh Genocide (2 x 50 / 1 x 90), the first full-length film to document the 1971 genocide of East Pakistan. Elsewhere, returning series are a safe bet for commissioners, with Digging for Britain returning for its 11th series from the BBC.

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

Traditional broadcasters are continuing to diversify into VOD and FAST platforms. Despite a downturn in the advertising market, broadcasters are still looking to focus on a fresh younger audience and optimise digital platforms. However, international streamers are looking to tighten the belt and prioritise the pennies and as subscriber numbers continue to fall, they are more flexible about taking global rights.

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

We foresee more global streamers looking to diversify, especially with SVODs looking to provide ad-supported alternatives and exploring FAST Channels. This could mean demand for thematic high volume series. Our flagship traditional factual genres of science, history and wildlife still prove high in demand, but elsewhere the interest in factual-entertainment genres such as crime, lifestyle and food continues to increase across the globe.

Where does opportunity lie for you in 2024?

We see huge opportunities in more co-production and presale projects as we grow our team and raise our ambitions. We are constantly expanding our clientele, from an impressive expansion in MENA and Iberia to a record year in sales across Central Eastern Europe. We are in a unique position as an independent, boutique distributor when looking for more international collaborations in every territory.

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.

Belt-tightening following the long pandemic years and a global financial downturn combined with oversaturation in SVOD and certain digital spaces has led to intense competition for limited commissioning money. However, as we look into more co-production potential, our position as an independent distribution company places us perfectly to quickly adapt to new challenges and create new partnerships across the industry.

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

Australia’s Open (2 x 45 / 1 x 90) ABC & ESPN.

With unprecedented access, this heart-pumping documentary catalogues the most electrifying moments of Australian tennis history, from the Williams sisters’ finals clash and Pat Cash’s devastating home loss, to Nadal and Federer’s career-long rivalry.

Yet this is so much more than just a sports documentary. In recent years, the Australian Open has become the centre stage for debate on the country’s policy on same-sex marriage, confronting treatment of refugees, Aboriginal rights and Australia’s complex relationship to its colonial past. Featuring compelling archive from the building of Melbourne Park to exclusive interviews with Pat Cash, Rennae Stubbs and rising British star Liam Broady, at this iconic Grand Slam, there is always more than a game of tennis at stake.

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