The changing role of the independent producer in Europe, the new studios' models, changes, and challenges in the international co-productions were the hot topics in MIA/Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo today. Martin Dawson, Deputy Head of Unit Audiovisual Industry and Media Support Programmes, DG CNECT, European Commission; Carlotta Calori, Co-Founder of Indigo Film; Nathalie Perus, Managing Director of Atlantique Productions; Alexandra Hoesdorff, Co-founder and CEO, of Deal Productions; Federico Scardamaglia, CEO at Compagnia Leone Cinematografica and Philipp Kreuzer, CEO at Maze Pictures were part of the panel where it was analyzed the role of the independent producer in Europe. Enrico Bufalini, Project Manager Creative Europe Desk Italy MEDIA – Cinecittà manifested that being an independent producer nowadays means the possibility to access the public sustain for production and distribution of the works, as good as finding the opportunity to sell the right to audiovisual media service provider. "In recent years, we have seen a concentration in the audiovisual market. According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, boosted by the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a mergers and acquisitions growth in the last five years, with the top twenty players accounting for around 70% of the top 100 European audiovisual groups by operating revenues, with the top four OTT platforms controlling over 70% of SVOD subscription, standing out as the most concentrated audiovisual market segment in Europe," he reported. "Concentration is the natural consequence of a growing investment in the audiovisual market, to create better quality works for a better competition against the US market," he concluded.
"As an independent producer, the special quality you must discover is the capacity to find the right IP in the market and propose them to exploit and produce it. It is the great work of research, mostly," said Scardamaglia. "As independent producers, we have to have a certain kind of really very developed leadership because we will present a lot of people in our company and a lot of emotional intelligence; I think that's very key to have," commented Alexandra Hoesdorff. "I would add energy, faith, a highly collective mindset, an entrepreneurial spirit," added Nathalie Perus. "We have to have many resources, we have to keep developing multiple skills, whether artistic, management, finance, commercial, we need to have it all to be able to push a project after that many years and see it on screen," she completed. For Philipp Kreuzer, being an independent European producer represents the nurture of diversity. "We are the catalysts between the creative and the financial," he expressed. "We need a network, financial, and rights," he added.
The panelists also debated the changes in the producer's role during the last few years. Kreuzer compared the current tasks of producers with what they had two or three years before with the big streaming bubble, and "that has completely changed," he affirmed. "We need to do and know how to put things back together. If you look at the market, the growth is less important; it's more about cost and the capacity, and I think we have to be flexible enough to do things for less and give talent more creative control," he added. Nathalie Perus commented that currently, in Europe, there is more ambition. "Atlantique Productions is a small production company in Mediawan that does international co-productions. "These are cumbersome projects to put together; they require a lot of resources and legitimacy, she explained. "On the creative side, you need to take a lot of risks, find unique stories, and be able to finance pilots to go to commissioners around the world. I see a big difference because now we can really develop and finance global projects, but with a real unicity, diversity, and European perspective," she detailed. "We are risk-takers; we developed projects from the get-go, we believe in our talent, and we want to be there until the end of the cycle and with that cycle build new IP and build new talent, that's really what it is to be an independent producer. It's to be an entrepreneur and not depend 100% on somebody else," concluded Alexandra Hoesdorff.
NEW STUDIOS MODELS
In the following panel, Tesha Crawford, SVP of Global Scripted Series at Universal International Studios; Brendan Fitzgerald, SVP International Co-Productions at Sony Pictures Television; Françoise Guyonnet, Executive Managing Director TV Series at StudioCanal; and Elisabeth D'Arvieu, CEO at Mediawan France debated the changing role of former global television distributors who today find themselves to be fundamental players for the development of content by becoming part of editorial production. Crawford commented the market has shifted quite a bit, and the industry, in general, is evolving rapidly with technology. "Currently, buyers are just being a bit more judicious on the things they are selecting," she mentioned. For Françoise Guyonnet, nowadays in Europe, there is less and less local commissioning from the platforms, and "we have rediscovered the value of the local broadcaster also," she appointed. Brendan Fitzgerald asserted that Sony in Spain is trying to look at life from the point of view of a linear broadcaster. "They see costs going up, they see quality going up, and their ad sales are tailing off, but yet they still have 14 primetime nights that they need to program every week, and what we're trying to do is to create a pipeline of co-productions to address those needs with high quality, premium scripted shows born in Europe and produced in Europe," he explained. The CEO of Mediawan France stated that currently, there is less commissioning. "The commissioners concentrate on bigger IPs, less risky for them, and there's certainly also a pressure on costs, so we have to be agile," she added. On the other hand, he noticed an increasing demand for documentaries, for unscripted, "because the streamers and the commissioners realize that it brings to them also big audience, as much as scripted, big subscribers," she said.
THE MOST WANTED
The experienced executives detailed what they are looking for in their Studios. Sony Pictures Television is looking for something obvious: one-hour contemporary dramas in English, born in Europe, and returning series for one to three million euros, like detective mystery genre and thrillers. On the other hand, StudioCanal is looking for co-producers and partners for their projects. "When it comes to third party, we are looking for a unique project," affirmed Françoise Guyonnet. "We have a powerful crossover between movie and TV talent. So we are always very interested in looking at projects coming from movie talent," she added that StudioCanal is always interested in promoting internationally foreign languages. "It's more challenging, but if the story is good, I think there is room for that kind of project," she completed. Tesha Crawford stated Universal International Studios has quite a few production companies based out of the UK, such as Working Title, Carnival Films, and Hometeam, and "we have leaned on them of what their brand is and what they are looking for and then just how we can help them from whether it be on the IP side because we have a great internal team at Universal who manage IP or casting," she said. On the European side, universal is looking to the co-production model to work with producers. "We're looking for projects that are very locally resonant in terms of themes, characters, setting, but then could have a broad appeal in terms of the concept," she detailed. Elisabeth D'Arvieu stood out that Mediawan is mainly a producer, but they are also an international seller. "We have a big capacity of gap financing and bringing financing and minimum guarantees to our series, whether they are all series produced by our own producers or third parties," she expressed. "it's also for us an opportunity to attract talents, to guarantee them that they will have their show financed, which is ultimately what they want, and it's also for our internal writers and talents a way to retain rights," she continued. D'Arvieu clarified that Mediawan is not looking for any particular genre. "We are looking for good shows, well written, that have an international audience and potential, and it can be true of local shows," she highlights. She mentioned the global success of "Call My Agent" "It was the origin of a France Télévisions show, financed by France Télévisions, and it reached global exposure on Netflix. Since then, it has traveled as a ready-made and a remake, and we have announced many versions worldwide. So what we are looking for is well-written shows and good ideas, and if possible, with a potential of returning series," she concluded.
In the panel "International Co-productions. Changes, Challenges and Clues", executives from the main public broadcasters (from Italy, Spain, and the UK) discussed the new structures of the audiovisual industry in their respective countries and the opportunities and challenges these imply in terms of relationships, content and working practices. Yago Fañdino Lousa, Head of Children's Content at RTVE and Director of Clan TV asserted that the Spanish broadcaster has tried to push as much as possible all the co-productions in both ways, Spanish IPs that could be produced outside Spain and European IP that could be produced with Spanish productions companies and currently has 15 animation projects in different stages of the production or development. "It's two kinds of co-productions that are important to push differently," affirmed. He also stood out that any animation production is a co-production. "It's challenging that you have an animation production with only one company and one country involved," he said. "Everything has always been coproduced for animation because it's expensive and time-consuming. I've never worked any other way besides coproducing for animation," agreed Jo Allen, Commissioning Executive at BBC Children. The executive asserted that with the changing landscape, the production values have increased, budgets have strung, and we have to compete with that, and the "only way to do that is to do it together," she said. BBC Children currently has more co-productions internationally for live-action, and "it works well," added Allen. Because of the costs, Luca Milano, Executive Director of RAI Kids, also agreed with the panelists about using a co-production model in animation. "In Cartoon Forum, we announced some series of 11-12 million euros, which is double what we had a few years ago, so there is globally a problem of containing the increase because we want to produce more and the resources are not unlimited," he highlighted. Milano also added that the investment from some big groups is raising the investment level. "Series sponsored by platforms arrive to 18 million euros, so we have to think about a reasonable level of investment for national and European co-production that should be of quality and affordable," he said.
Discussing the future, Milano affirmed that Rai's investment in animation has increased in the last years, and the production quantity and quality are in good form. "There are good possibilities not only to produce in the sense of having in Italy just the storyboards and the script and then have everything made outside, but also to have in Italy the animation, which is important from the terms of real co-production," he explained. Milano also mentioned pubcasters should think about more extensive properties. "We should have a couple of great properties every year coming from Europe, and I think it is possible to have in a few years," he anticipated. Allen stated BBC will continue to coproduce. "We're finding quite exciting the network created by different animation companies across different places in Europe," she said. "I believe that the future is assured the success of the European co-productions in terms of local building brands," affirmed Yago Fañdino Lousa. "Our goal for the next years is to make growing the percentage of European productions, especially our co-productions, and we need to produce different shows, a diversity of shows," he concluded.
MEETING THE COMMISSIONERS
This section repeats every day during the MIA Market. On this occasion, Rai Angelo Mellone, Daytime Entertainment Director at Rai, explained his direction's editorial lines and addressed his interest in reviving the factual genre for the Italian broadcaster. The executive said that Factual indicates a broad genre. Rai 1 is the channel of popular imagination, light entertainment, and mainstream programs. Rai 3, he continued, is the news channel, and Rai 2 is the channel of reality. "We produce a lot of live programming, which, by nature, is substantial, like a newsreel, is information and biodegradable content. They are worth the moment in which they are produced, then they boil, except for a few things that remain in the archive," he explained. Mellone said that inside factual, there are so many opportunities, including tutorials, human relationships, verticals like father and son or horizontals, like wife and husband, and programs that reflect the problems of children between 12 and 25 years old. "That is a public service", he expressed. "Programs that reflect and show daily problems need more space in the television," he asserted. He also affirmed Factual programs will have vertical storytelling with finished episodes. On the other hand, Mellone confirmed that Canone Rai does not finance most of the programs he produced, so they need the ads. In that line, he referred to the branded content as a great instrument to support the programs. "But the branded content has to be linked with the values; it has not to be a commercial tool," he said. He also asserted he wants to create Rai formats or coproduce Italian formats.