London TV Screenings Insights: Will Stapley, Head of Acquisitions Abacus Media Rights

Will Stapley

As buyers head 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 Q&A, Abacus Media Rights’ Will Stapley, Head of Acquisitions discusses pipelines and funding.

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

Challenging. Restructuring. Necessary

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

Evolving. Supportive. Competitive

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

We are getting involved with projects at an early stage, even at the inception of an idea and then going out to the international market to secure coproduction and financing opportunities. Essentially, we are helping shows that cannot secure a commission this year find the required funds to move into production. And we are gap financing high-end commissioned projects that need a hand getting across the budget finish line.

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

Budget freezes / restrictions across the board

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

Greater flexibility

Where does opportunity lie for you in 2024?

In balancing local for local deals with larger pan regional packages and securing high value pre-sales for premium projects across scripted and unscripted.

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.

With a smaller pool of available new content coming through global production pipelines there is more competition for third party content and the larger groups will inevitably outbid the mid-sized and more boutique distributors. Production companies need to weigh up immediate funds vs long term distributor suitability for each project beyond 2024.

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

The Boy That Never Was is our new 4 x one hour Drama from Subotica for RTÉ Ireland which we’ll be screening on 27th February.

It’s shot in multiple locations which we feel will increase the international appeal. It stars award-winning actor Colin Morgan (Belfast), Toni O’Rourke (God’s Creatures), Kerr Logan (Alias Grace) and Simon Callow (The Witcher) and is directed by award-winning director Hannah Quinn.

It’s a deeply atmospheric and masterfully crafted tale of love and loss that will chill you to the bone. Adapting to life as new parents in their friend Cosmo’s tiny apartment hasn’t been easy, but despite the sleep deprivation, the couple remain devoted to their little boy. And then one evening, everything changes. Harry leaves a sleeping Dillon alone for the briefest of moments when an earthquake hits. Harry races back to rescue his child, only to find his apartment in rubble and no evidence of Dillon.

Three years later, thousands of miles away in Dublin, Harry spots a six-year-old boy in a crowd – a boy he is convinced is Dillon. Harry must prove his son is alive, even if he can’t quite believe it himself. Harry’s obsession tears apart his marriage, exposing shameful secrets and shattering the one thing he and Robin had left – trust.

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