OneMIP - The TV industry’s largest content showcase

13 October 2022

Co-production takes centre-stage at MIPCOM CANNES

As delegates from around the world prepare to descend on the French Riviera for what promises to be a dynamic edition of MIPCOM CANNES, the content creation and financing business finds itself at an intriguing watershed.

By Andy Fry

WHILE audience demand for great content continues, a combination of soaring production inflation and slowing growth at subscription-service providers like Netflix is forcing the content business to rethink the way it raises finance and generates ROI.

A couple of years back, it looked like non-traditional investment (for example private equity) might be the answer – but this has so far proved to be hard to secure. Instead, the business is doubling down on two areas that have proved remarkably durable down the years – co-production and advertiser-funding. Both are subjects that will be explored in depth during MIPCOM CANNES.

Advertiser funding lost some of its sheen as the spot-ad business model went into decline; but recent years have seen a resurgence thanks to social TV, branded content and the rapid rise of AVOD. At MIPCOM CANNES, several sessions will drill down into AVOD and the complementary phenomenon of FAST Channels.

As for co-production – both creative and co-financing – MIPCOM delegates down the decades have always understood the value of international partnerships, especially in areas like kids and high-end factual. But now more than ever there is a recognition that co-production is crucial to securing the right level of production budget and also a pathway to retaining long-term IP rights.

For this reason, the benefits and challenges of co-pros will be discussed at virtually every forum during MIPCOM CANNES and its sister event MIPJUNIOR. From media mastermind keynotes to producer-led panels, via screenings and networking events, collaboration will be the watchword of the week.

One illustration of this will be a fireside chat with Banijay head of scripted Lars Blomgren and a panel of leading producers from within the company. Ahead of the market, Blomgren said co-pro continues to be a trusted model used by the company: “It is absolutely the core of our business. With budgets rising, and the fight for talent pushing costs up, as well as economic strain, it remains our preferred financial model.”  

At MIPCOM CANNES “Marie Antoinette is a big Banijay Rights priority. Telling the story of the unconventional and fashionable queen, this series for CANAL+ is a co-production with Capa Drama, Banijay Studios France and Les Gens.”

Another MIPCOM highlight that underlines the importance of the co-production model right now is The Swarm, distributed jointly by Beta Film and ZDF Studios. A high-end scripted series due to launch in 2023, The Swarm explores what happens when a series of inexplicable ocean-related events threaten the existence of humanity. Produced by Schwarm TV Productions (a JV of Intaglio Film & ndF IP), it has ZDF Germany, France TV, RAI Italy, ORF Austria, SRF Switzerland, NENT Group (Nordics) and Hulu Japan on board as partners.

Several sessions on the new Producers’ Hub track – all held in the new Seaview Producers Hub – will explore co-production. The scene will be set by OMDIA senior principal analyst/digital content and channels, Tim Westcott, in An Analysis of TV Co-productions’ Evolution Through The Pandemic. Ahead of the event, he said that: “With streaming services extending their footprint across the world, many assumed that the days of co-productions were numbered. However, partnerships between producers, broadcasters, distributors and other sources of funding are thriving.”

Executives will get a chance to initiate their own creative and financing partnerships during the Drama Co-Production Networking Breakfasts, which are followed by a range of sessions that address the subject of co-production from multiple international angles and perspectives.  

In The Changing Face of International Drama Co-productions and local language content, ITV Studios managing director Lisa Perrin will argue that upheaval in the global TV market makes a discussion about co-production timely: “Co-pro models have always been a product of the partners involved and the needs of the show – but they are constantly changing. The changes we see at the moment are in timings and scale. Platforms want to move upstream on shows they know will work for them and steer towards a show that sits between something they commission and something they acquire.”

Perrin believes that escalating costs make co-production more important than ever. Global streamers were doing more co-production a few years ago – for example The Bodyguard, The Serpent and Django – but the conversations now suggest these are coming back. With huge cost inflation, it's a good thing, and critical to the future of drama.”

Keshet vice-president, acquisitions, Anke Stoll is on the same panel and will tell delegates that her company wants to work with producers from many countries – both on English and non-English language developments. “With some streamers cutting back, the appetite for co-production and third-party acquisitions will grow.”

In another Producers’ Hub session, titled Creative Deal-making, the increasingly prevalent role of distribution companies as co-producing partners will be explored. APC co-CEO Emmanuelle Guilbart said that one of the biggest changes in the “last five to 10 years has been that distributors’ involvement in the project starts earlier and earlier, which leads to a more significant editorial role and can translate into a co-development deal. The distributor’s role in financing has become just as important as that of selling.”

Resurgence in the co-production model is leading to some fascinating non-traditional partners. French producer Sydney Gallonde, for example, will be in Cannes to discuss how he has built his company through a combination of French-based and international productions. He said: “We have several ongoing developments for French streamers, broadcasters and international co-productions as part of our first-look deal with MGM International TV Productions. It was our challenge to produce projects on an international scale by being independent with a small but efficient team. But we couldn't make it happen without partners such as MGM.”

For non-scripted producers, the Producer’s Hub will host a half-day programme of case studies during the Unscripted Showcase. “Producers and decision-makers attending MIPCOM CANNES will be inspired to learn from three sets of documentary insiders, how their different projects stood above the competition and won the backing of their funding and distribution partners,” the consultant who curated and produced the sessions, Peter Hamilton, said. “We will track each production team’s step-by-step process from the big idea to delivery.”

Hamilton and the Showcase team selected titles that are “topical, diverse and illustrative of different formats. Gender identity is the subject of Naked, a six-part cross-Atlantic co-pro; and also of PBS International’s Casa Susanna, a theatrical-length documentary with a one-hour version for TV. Space Mission Senegal reveals the untold story of an Islamic African scientist and is a director-led co-production.”

As referenced above, co-production is also the lifeblood of events like MIPJUNIOR. Here, an experienced line up of kids specialists will help delegates understand latest developments. In Let’s talk about Co-production: What’s New for Autumn 2022 and Beyond, panelists include Billy Macqueen, co-founder of Darrell Macqueen – a prolific indie that works for a range of streamers and broadcasters. Ahead of the session, Macqueen said: “Next up for children’s and family producers is to acquire co-pro partnerships, either creative, or financial, if they want to be part of the global TV future”.

Dominic Gardiner, founder and CEO of Jetpack Distribution added: “Co-production continues to be one of the essential pillars for kids production and financing for both commercial and public platforms. Global streamers are requesting more rights these days and the cost of production is being driven higher, making it hard for single territory producers to finance an entire series. The streamer/studio model can ensure financing and production is quicker and simpler. However, if producers forge on together, they can increase their stakes in the IP and leverage better deals with the platforms as a co-production.”

Also at MIPJUNIOR, Cecilia Persson, managing director, BBC Studios Kids & Family, will give a keynote in which she explains her role at the head of “a brand new, all-in-one global kids and family content powerhouse. Among her key messages to delegates will be that the newly-configured division will enable more scope for partnerships. “We are open for business,” she said ahead of the session, “We aim to be a major global force in children’s content that will deliver outstanding productions, such as our new bridge animation Supertato which we are bringing to Cannes. A co-pro with Tencent for the first time, it premieres on CBeebies this autumn.”

During the MIPCOM week, European content studio Beta Film will host its first-ever Kids & Family Showcase for buyers. Beta head of kids and family Claudia Schmitt said her division is placing an increasing emphasis on “co-developments, where we work with producers to give shows the best chance of international success. One of these is Green Girl, about a teenager who wants to save the planet by educating people to take care of the environment. One way she does this is through the ‘wood wide web’.”

While co-production refers to project by project partnerships, one theme that will also be evident at MIPCOM 2022 is that the partnership ethos also extends to strategic alliances at corporate level. In Europe, for example, Hollywood studio-backed streamer Paramount+ and leading pay-TV/on-demand platform Sky have forged an alliance that is helping both sides challenge the might of Disney and Netflix. Delegates will be able to find out more in MIP Talks: The Importance of Strong Distribution Partnerships.

Another landmark event will be a panel headed by Fernando Szew, founder and CEO of MarVista and head of Fox Entertainment Global. During a wide-ranging discussion, Szew will outline plans for Fox Entertainment Global, a newly-formed, centralised content division that will be an active participant in the international distribution market. Based in Los Angeles on the Fox Studios lot, the division will be responsible for overseeing the international, multi-platform sales and distribution of IP owned and produced by both Fox Entertainment companies and outside partners. “This new, centralised business unit represents FOX’s official re-entry into the international television marketplace,” Szew said. “The division will maximise our ability to be a valued creative partner and content supplier to linear, streaming and digital platforms world-wide.”