TBI Weekly: How creative coproductions can help to temper turbulence

Gwenda Carnie

As the industry battles through the ongoing turmoil of 2024, tapping into the benefits of coproduction is increasingly becoming a necessity despite its challenges, argues Industry Media’s Gwenda Carnie.

There’s no doubt that the TV Industry is experiencing unprecedented turbulence and very few in the content business are escaping its impact.

No matter how big or how small a player you are, you are undoubtedly being hit in some way or another by increased production costs, diminishing advertising revenues, diminishing subscription revenues, changes to public broadcasters, the fear/threat of AI, strikes (and their aftermath), commissioning slowdowns and the continued dispersion and changing habits of audiences.

Disruption and change are constants in the content business but even for those used to dealing with change, this recent onslaught can feel overwhelming.

Change in any industry inevitably leads to different and new models of doing business but it seems like one tried and tested model – international co-production – is alive and well, and perhaps not surprisingly on the rise against this challenging backdrop.

The benefits of international co-production are well-known: access to new funding sources, the ability to pool resources and share financial risk; access to new markets, new audiences, broadcasters and distributors; to diverse talent pools; and the discovery of new and diverse creative expertise and cultural perspectives.

As a co-producer, an expanded reach for your content enhances its global visibility but also opens avenues for cross-cultural engagement.

Thanks largely to the streamers, we are all a bit more open to watching TV series that originated elsewhere. The success in the UK of content from overseas is clear evidence that global audiences are craving unique and diverse storytelling, and international co-production can be a gateway to getting this content made and on to our screens.

However those engaging in international co-production will also know, only too well, that it isn’t easy. In our consultancy business, we witness every day the challenges that co-production can bring.

There is the obvious: who has creative control, who gets world premiere, does the financial and creative contribution match the value each party derives from the co-pro?.

And the less obvious: arriving at a deal that suits everyone is rarely a smooth process for all sorts of reasons – every country has its own laws/regulations and template/union agreements, every organisation has its ways of doing business, its own credit rules, its own custom and practices.

Big companies, in particular, don’t always find it easy to agree ‘off piste’ co-pro deals – they’re just not set up that way.

Dare I also say that some companies might occasionally overestimate the value of their input?

Yet another challenge co-production can present is the potential for dilution of cultural representation for the UK on a global stage at a time when instability across the world makes leveraging the ‘soft power’ of representation on screen ever more important.

But none of these things are insurmountable and, like many things in life, the key to co-production success is finding the right partner for you and your content.

If you find that partner and if you take the time to negotiate a deal informatively, openly and fairly, you can leverage all the myriad of benefits that co-production brings and be much better placed to weather the current ongoing industry disruption.

Gwenda Carnie is director at UK TV business affairs adviser Industry Media. She previously worked for media legal firm Wiggin as well as being commercial director at Flame Media Group.

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