London TV Screenings Insights: Rodolphe Buet, general manager, Newen Connect

Evelyne Brochu, Melvil Poupaud, Swann Arlaud

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 latest installment we hear from Rodolphe Buet, general manager at Newen Connect, about shrinking budgets, getting involved at the early stages of projects and why creativity on all fronts is essential in 2024.

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

Rollercoaster, disruptive, aggregation

The market is disruptive and we have the challenge to create value with the rise of new models that are all sources of additional opportunities

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

Inventive, pivot, engaged

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

Newen Connect benefit from two main sources of programs which are: Newen Studios programs through in-house producers and a substantial part of TF1 original commissioning. This allow us to be very selective on third parties projects, which are mostly high-end series which needs reliable and successful partner such as Newen Connect. We are not looking for quantity but for shows which are distinctive, ambitious, relevant for international audiences, that we would like to watch.

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

We are increasingly involved in the early stages of a project. That’s a major change in our relationships with our partners, in line with transformations in the market. Whereas we used to partner on ready-made programs, today we think more in terms of development and pre-financing. This is the case with recent programs such as Bel Canto, Cat’s Eyes, We come in peace, etc.

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

We’re seeing three major developments. Firstly, the local dimension: more and more projects with strong roots in local culture and values. Secondly, shrinking production budgets on mid-size projects but a need for event series. Last but not least, in terms of volume, fewer productions.

Streamers concentrate their investment on local programmes for which they do not acquire worldwide rights. As a result, the challenge for us is to ensure that these programmes have international potential so that we can find the funding needed to finance them. Series such as Cat’s Eyes (produced by Big Band), one of the most ambitious and exciting show commissioned by TF1 and pre-financed with Amazon, or Memento Mori from our Spanish production company Izen, are very good examples.

Rodolphe Buet

Where does opportunity lie for you in 2024?

In 2024, we will have to be even more creative, in terms of financial engineering, creating marketing value and optimizing the windowing of rights in some key territories. The market is disruptive, and we have the challenge to create value with the rise of new models that are all sources of additional opportunities (AVOD, hybrid models, digital platforms, B-VOD offers like TF1+, etc.).

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

The production costs are growing up and the distribution sector has to contend with declining investments from traditional media players and streamers in some key territories, either due to reductions in grid costs, or because they are focusing on local rights or event programs. It has an impact on the expectations and relation between producers and distributors. Our goal is to make sure that will bring together the financial elements that will enable producers to move forward with their project. Being on board at a very early stage and explore all opportunities will facilitate the process.

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

We are pleased to present among others two political shows at London Screenings this year: In The Shadow, featuring a prestigious cast, and Eight Months produced by one of our home label Anagram.

In an election period as crucial as the one we’re about to experience in a few months, I believe it’s essential to offer viewers shows that can somehow restore the connection between us/citizens and the politics. Some shows such as 24 Hours, House Of Cards, The West Wing or Borgen were able to positively enlighten voters. We’d love In The Shadow and Eight Months to have the same impact.

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