Exclusive: FAST dominates MIPCOM chat for distributors

The full fat version of MIPCOM was back with a vengeance in Cannes this week, but while Cara Delevingne and Emily Blunt provided some glitz, the clamour has been around something rather less glamorous.

FAST was barely a subject for discussion at MIPCOM 2019 but spool forward three years and the revenue potential is clear for rights holders, while platforms are increasingly jostling for position – Samsung TV Plus snagging a prime beachside location for their stand.

Despite all this, FAST remains largely nascent outside of the US. But ask the major distributors what the key trend has been this week under the Riviera sun – “I’d forgotten just how warm it could be in Cannes in October,” jokes Fremantle’s international CEO Jens Richter – and the answer you get more often than not is FAST.

“There has been a huge amount of discussion on AVOD/FAST,” Ruth Berry, MD of global distribution at ITV Studios, tells TBI. “It really is the hot topic.”

Berry adds that she is “expecting strong growth” following the launch of two channels earlier this year, while Banijay Rights’ CEO Cathy Payne adds that her key trend takeaway of the week has been “the continued growth of domestic VOD services” including FAST, AVOD and broadcaster offerings.

Banijay, which claims the biggest catalogue outside of the US studios, is more broadly ramping up interest in FAST and CEO Marco Bassetti told TBI earlier this week that OTT channels – and Banijay going direct to consumer more broadly – offered great potential.

The French company launched the first network to carry its name – Horizons: Powered By Banijay – last month, with the service joining a portfolio that now stands at more than a dozen and is set to grow further.

Over at Cineflix Rights, a similar story is playing out. Former All3Media International exec Mike Gould started at the beginning of the month to oversee its FAST channels push and CEO Tim Mutimer tells TBI he is similarly bullish about its potential.

It is, he adds, a fast-growing area of potential and one that Cineflix intends to capitalise on, as does one of the longest standing players in the space, Paramount’s Pluto TV.

“It’s incredible to see this momentum around FAST, which is really taking the stage as an innovative, and classic, way to watch TV,” Olivier Jollet, EVP & int’l GM of Pluto TV, tells TBI.

Jollett and Pluto TV have launched “more than 1,000 unique channels” over the past four years, he adds, and there is an ever-increasing focus on curation. Jollett says that his team “apply subject-matter expertise with data and instinct” on Pluto’s channels, while further expansion is planned in Canada in December.

Content calling cards

On the programme side, scripted has made its traditional splash here in Cannes with The English, starring Emily Blunt, leading All3Media International’s slate and probably securing the most chat among buyers.

But factual has been driving footfall and Berry says ITVS’s A Year On Planet Earth has been a particular draw for acquisition execs, while Beyond’s head of sales, Sarah Bickley, tells TBI “the rise of ‘true-con’ documentaries” has been her stand-out trend on the content front.

Payne points to scripted product such as Banijay’s Marie Antoinette as cutting through and Richter says premium is the name of the game across genres.

“We have had active and balanced sales across all our genres and quality definitely counts – our factual slate including Planet Sex and Kingdom Of Dreams and scripted shows like This England, Wreck and East Side have been very popular because of this,” he says.

Outside of their own catalogues, Richter points to Drops Of God by Dynamic Television as a stand-out show that caught the eye, while Bickley goes for buzzy HIP from Newen Connect and Berry chooses Fremantle’s Planet Sex With Cara Delevingne.

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