By Dom Serafini
This time you might think that I’ve gone completely cuckoo, but I’m honestly convinced that the world needs another international film-TV market. A different type of market, though: a new trade show where producers are sellers and distributors are buyers.
Throughout VideoAge’s 27 years, the most recurrent complaints heard from distributors are:“[Program] prices are too low and… I don’t have enough product.”
Normally, the fact that distributors don’t have anything new to sell should not be of concern to a trade publication. But it is, simply because advertising budgets are planned around new products. This accordion-type of marketing, however, isn’t advisable, and for good reason — it’s not market-wise for a company to publicize its ups and downs. Indeed, the image necessary to project is one of stability and growth.
Naturally, when revenues decrease due to reduced sales caused by lack of product, costs have to be slashed and the first line-item to go is advertising money. We all realize this strategy is defeatist, but the reality is what it is, and we have to live with it, whether we like it or not.
In addition, lack of new product forces distributors to come up with creative ways to monetize their libraries, and they must often mortgage their futures in order to generate some income. One could say that, for the aspect of the television business, with distributors as buyers, there is no need to have a specialized market, since existing markets could be just as good.
Wrong! Many times, while patiently waiting to meet a distributor at one of the existing trade shows’ stands or hotel suites, I see producers walking in trying to get some attention, who are invariably forced to leave some of their product literature with a hostess. At these markets, distributors are concentrating on selling, not buying, and journalists are preferred (i.e., tolerated) over producers because they offer much-needed visibility at trade shows.
Yes, festivals are good places to scout for new content to distribute, but it’s not time-efficient and often producers don’t enter programs that could be highly commercial. At times, distributors attend other distributors’ screenings in order to pick up a few products for specific territories. But this is the equivalent of putting on a band-aid where a limb was just amputated.
On the other hand, imagine an attractive market; let’s say held in Monte Carlo, where distributors can give producers their undivided attention for mutually beneficial deal-making activities.
At such a trade show, not yet in existence, distributors could meet not only with those producer-types who tend to mortgage their homes in order to realize their life’s ambition, but they could also meet with those TV outlets producing programs for their domestic market without a thought about international distribution. This, for example, is the case of Ireland’s RTE, which is producing a soap, but not selling it due to lack of a distribution division.
Plus, imagine how rewarding exchanges between producers and distributors could be, especially at the early stages of a project where producers could benefit from distributors’ input, i.e., before money is poured into a losing proposition. Similarly, distributors could be helping (themselves and producers) with pre-sales to major territories and secure a steady flow of commercial content for their distribution pipes. Producers could also find advanced money and co-production partners that distributors could line up.
Now the inevitable questions: “Where and when could such a market be staged?”
In this case, the second question could be answered by the markets’ calendar itself. Naturally, distributors need new products before going to a market. This should preferably be at least one month prior. Too often distributors acquire new product just before going to a market, and with little time to prepare, it could end up jeopardizing sales or not fully monetizing a new show’s potential. In view of such requirements, one suggestion could be to stage the producer-distributor market in February (prior to MIP-TV) or in September (before MIPCOM).
As for the first question (“Where to hold it?”), the preference would be Monte Carlo in February and Banff, Canada, in September.
Finally, it is important to stress (in order not to stress people out) that, in order to save money, such a market should be held in hotel suites and that exhibitors can be both producers and distributors. After all, if a producer can mortgage a home in order to realize a dream, he or she could certainly spend a few bucks to sell the program in order to buy a bigger home. And, with this time of market, producers will not longer be required to mortgage it!