By Leah Hochbaum Rosner
The L.A. Screenings are around the corner. Soon, television executives from around the globe will descend upon Hollywood to screen the new series the studios and indies have to offer, and decide which shows are right for their own 2009-2010 TV season. VideoAge sought out Sue Deeks, an acquisitions exec for London, U.K.-based BBC, to get a buyer’s perspective on the annual affair. Here, she speaks candidly about programming trends, the fallout from the financial crisis and why she chooses to spend more time with the studios than the indies.
VideoAge International: What trends have you observed from the current crop of network commissioned pilots?
Sue Deeks: It looks like there are many more comedies this year than there have been recently. We don’t tend to acquire a lot of comedy — we currently air quirkier fare like Flight of the Conchords and Family Guy — but it really depends on what the show is. For networks, if they can get a comedy working really well, that’s the Holy Grail for them in terms of attracting audiences and then money to be made from syndication. It also looks like there will be quite a few medical dramas this year. I haven’t yet earmarked anything that I think will be perfect for our channels since nothing has officially been picked up. If I do, it’s almost a guarantee that it won’t get picked up.
VAI: What genre are you focusing on acquiring?
SD: It’s more likely that we’ll find a drama that we like than a comedy. But at this point, we can’t rule anything out really. We fit our acquisitions in around our existing shows, so when we see a piece that we think is a perfect fit for our channels, we go for it. We don’t have set slots. Sometimes we’ll open up a slot for it.
VAI: How many hours of programming are you planning to buy at this year’s Screenings?
SD: There’s no set number. We play it by ear. We’ve got a lot of returning series this year, including Heroes, Mad Men and Damages, so it looks like we won’t have as much room for new shows. But like I said, we’ll see what’s out there and if need be, we’ll create a slot for it. We don’t have a certain number of acquisition hours. We can afford to be very choosy.
VAI: Do you tend to spend more of your time with the studios or with indies?
SD: With the studios. They’ve got the biggest volume. Majors will often have seven or eight things, whereas indies might only have one or two. But we do make time for other, smaller distributors while we’re in L.A.
VAI: How will the financial crisis affect the Screenings?
SD: People will have less money to spend on things, of course. But in the end, that might make for fiercer competition. Whereas in the past you might have bought two or three shows, now you may only buy one, but you’ll be prepared to spend more for it.