As buyers depart the UK capital following the biggest London TV Screenings to date, TBI picks out six key highlights from a frenetic week of activity.
The London TV Screenings began as a way for UK-based distributors to make the most of international buyers who were in town for BBC Studios’ Showcase.
That event now, of course, has also moved down to the Big Smoke, a shift that neatly highlights the evolution of the London TV Screenings and how its place on the calendar of global execs is now firmly established.Up, up and away…
Official numbers are yet to come in but it is expected that the 2023 haul of buyers who headed into the UK this week will top the roughly 500 execs who made the trip last year. There were more than 25 events spread across the week, ranging from screenings and sales pitches, to straight drinks and networking do’s, while TBI spoke to buyers from Australia, the US, the Middle East, Africa and Europe, underlining its truly global nature.
There might have been more, but the London TV Screenings remains very much invite only – and some decline press intrusion. While there might be much coordination between rival sales firms to ensure events overlap, the competitiveness to keep buyers to themselves for as long as they can remains.
Long game view
Streamer spending was top of conversation amid the ongoing reshuffles at the global streamers, but for the bosses of major European studios, adopting a longer term strategy was top of mind. Fremantle’s COO & continental Europe CEO, Andrea Scrosati, was one of four major European bosses to speak to TBI ahead of the London TV Screenings, and he said that while spending has softened for some streamers, he remains bullish about opportunities, adding that “some positive signs” are emerging.
ITV Studios (ITVS) CEO Julian Bellamy was another to point to the differences between the headlines around a decline of streamer spending versus the reality, pointing to a steady Netflix content budget this year of around $17bn and Apple TV+ upping its investments, as a counter to Disney+ and HBO Max reductions.
Good week for Bellamy
One suspects the ITVS CEO might have the biggest grin of all after this week, following another set of impressive results that helped its parent broadcaster out no end. While ITV is facing up to the reality of an advertising slump, ITVS reported a revenue rise of 19% to £2.1bn while adjusted EBITDA soared by 22% to £259m.
The scripted push in particular is paying off, with shows such as Physical for Apple TV+ helping ITVS report a 58% rise in high-end scripted hours. It’s a trend Bellamy will hope to extend, and he told TBI this week that ITVS wants to achieve “parity” between unscripted and scripted revenues, while its streaming success has prompted a new target to be set, with ITVS aiming for 30%, rather than 25%, of its revenues to be sourced from streamer commissions.
Talking to producers, there is an increasing feeling on the European side of the pond that the future isn’t looking too bad, despite a production squeeze. This is particularly noticeable on scripted, with many creatives and distributors looking across at an impending writers strike in the US as an opportunity. But even if the unions and US studios settle their differences, the cost efficiencies offered by production firms outside of the US is a line regularly being touted by… well, those outside of the US. It also helps that the dollar remains pretty strong, making most locations more cost effective when it comes to producing a series.
And then there’s the return of the coproduction, although it never really went away of course. The difference this time seems to be that streamers are becoming much more open to negotiating and considering whether the all-rights deals of recent years are the way to go as they seek profitability above subscriber growth. “A year or so ago, the streamers were saying they’d only commission on work for hire,” says BBC Studios CEO Tom Fussell, talking to TBI ahead of his London-based Showcase. “But that model is – well, people are being more flexible, let’s put it that way.”
Content, cocktails & chatter
While some deals did emerge during the week, the London TV Screenings has become more a place of discussion and consideration for buyers than a place to just acquire tape. Some companies did this more than others: Paramount used its swanky poolside do at the Haymarket Hotel as an excuse to simply get people together and enjoy themselves (and point buyers in the direction of the LA Screenings for their latest offerings), as did Blue Ant Media, which again assembled the great and the good to 76 Dean Street’s top floors. Others, such as Cineflix, proferred full slates: its spring offering was led by Tempting Fortune, the Voltage TV format unveiled last year that is being produced for Channel 4 in the UK and Roku in North America. It was accompanied by a party and screening event that offered beds and massages for those looking to ease down after a frantic few days.