The joke (and by now we need some humor!) is that in the year 1720 the world was hit by the Bubonic plague, that 1820 saw an outbreak of Asiatic cholera, that 1920 saw the rise of the Spanish flu (even though Spain had nothing to do with it), and that 2020 is the year that the now-infamous coronavirus came into existence. Let’s hope that we’re nowhere to be found when the next pandemic inevitably hits in 2120.
As we can see, planning 100 years ahead seems easier than figuring out how 2021 will evolve. And yet, we have to imagine the world that is coming because the future depends on our collective 2020 vision. To do so, VideoAge relied on the visions of 15 film and TV executives from nine countries. After all, the role of a leader is, by definition, to envision solutions during turbulent times.
In an interview with The New York Times in September, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-founder and co-CEO, said: “I don’t want to really set up a home office because I want to believe that the pandemic is going to end soon.” (Separately, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said that “remote working has negative effects.”) Earlier in the same interview with the New York Times, he added, “I see producing stories as bigger than ever. But those stories will be produced in Atlanta, in Vancouver, in London, all over the world as opposed to strictly in Hollywood.”
Chris Knight, CEO of Gusto TV, was ready to get back to business when he spoke to VideoAge during a Zoom interview from his office in Ottawa, Canada. “We restarted production on June 24, after shutting down in March,” he said. As for markets, he noted that “We no longer go to markets to screen content. Those days are over. Nowadays we go to markets to find new business, and markets are cost-efficient to do so because our most precious commodity is time.” But, he asked, “How do we develop new business without going to markets?”
Knight also explained that Gusto TV is planning to expand in LATAM and Asia. “And we haven’t touched MENA yet,” he said. He didn’t personally participate in a single virtual market (“I’m suffering from online fatigue,” he said), and he complained that everything online takes three times as long as in person.”
From New York, Danny Fisher, CEO of FilmRise, commented that, “By 2021 I hope there will be a vaccine against coronavirus, and that even though the pandemic will hopefully have subsided, it will create a new normal, like the TSA after 9/11 is still with us.” He believes that personal safety will stay with us the way that tight security continues to be enforced at U.S. airports by the Federal Transportation Security Administration agency following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “I’m not suffering from virtual fatigue because, for me, Zoom meetings are more efficient than those [conducted] face-to-face, which are often interrupted. But ultimately, we all long for — and need — the in-person meetings again,” he said.
From Munich, Germany, Herbert Kloiber, CEO of Night Train Media (NTM), said that he expects “that we will have found a more comprehensive way of getting into physical production, including the insurance side of things, as well as generally accepted procedure guidelines” in 2021.
“For the TV outlets I expect that there will be a continued shift of budgets toward their respective SVoD services to spearhead ‘originals,’ with the traditional networks acting as financing support and secondary windows.”
From Paris, France, Emmanuèle Pétry Sirvin, partner, Dandelooo, predicted: “2021 will be a strong year for growth as we start two new full series productions. Our studio, Ooolala, will grow from 10 people to over 80 at minimum during 2021.
“If all goes well on the financing side,” she continued, “we will also start in the middle of the year with the production of Upside Down River for Canal Plus. On the distribution side, she noted that the company “will harvest the crop in 2021: The flowers will be in full bloom for two new animated series produced by our partners: Pompon Little Bear by [French] Supamonks Studio and Royals Next Door by [Finland’s] Pikkukala. And of course, we plan to be at MIP-TV in 2021.”
According to Hollywood producer Marc Provissiero, in 2021 “we’re walking back to work, not running. Studios have a backlog of 100 films to release. There won’t be a sea of greenlights. And there will be production.” Provissiero has Nobody, a theatrical movie, set for a February 19 release by Universal Films.
From Munich, Moritz Polter, executive producer, International Series, Bavaria Fiction, commented: “Hopefully, face-to-face meetings will be possible again with overseas partners next year. Virtual markets just can’t replace physical meetings and the buzz of a real market,” he said.
With regard to international productions, he continued, “we will have two projects in 2021. Europe is currently able to get more productions going than the U.S. European actors and heads of departments are actually at the limit of their capacity, while there are almost no productions shooting in the U.S.” However, Hollywood’s observers reported that FOX and The CW network, for example, plan to launch new and returning series in 2021, allowing productions ample time to adjust to a new normal that includes extensive safety protocols to film during the pandemic.
Moira Mc Namara of Argentina’s Ledafilms commented: “We have great expectations for 2021. We are shaping up several projects and we’ll continue adding new attractive and commercial pictures for all platforms to our vast catalog of premium titles. Between the last part of 2020 and 2021 we’ll be launching four new titles. We believe that NATPE 2021 in Miami will be the next live market. If the vaccine is available, we will return to our ordinary travel plans attending the different markets in Europe and in America, but until then the virtual markets are our new normal.”
To Gary Marenzi, CEO of Santa Monica, California-based Marenzi & Associates, “I anti-cipate the next several months will see frenzied [buying] activity and competition for the best shows. Beyond the global streaming wars, the AVoD market is catching fire in the U.S. and will also develop rapidly abroad. Meanwhile, traditional broadcasters and premium pay-TV channels are more willing to collaborate at an early stage on new content that will allow them to compete more effectively with the streamers.”
He continued: “I’ve always been a big fan of the key markets, and I’ll continue to participate in them, but I also subscribe to the ‘80/20 rule’ (i.e., 80 percent of the revenue comes from 20 percent of the market). With consolidation among the streamers and without a huge library to service, it’s much easier to do ‘surgical’ distribution globally than ever before, as evidenced by many companies downsizing their distribution arms or eliminating them altogether.”
To Kate Beal, CEO of Eastleigh, U.K.-based Woodcut Media, “in many ways, we have never been more connected internationally, as broadcasters and co-production partners have had more time to spend discussing ideas on Zoom. This ‘new normal’ way of working will continue to some degree into 2021, and when it comes to physically attending international markets, I think we will be more selective, with safety for our staff being our number one priority.”
Hervé Michel, president of Paris-based TV France International, said: “At TV France, we do not expect a change before at least the end of Q1 of 2021 and although our exporters are eager to take to the road again, they do not expect major participation at TV trade shows. So far, most of our members reported good results for 2020, but they’re anxious to discover how business will evolve in the next six months, even though it seems that sales of new programs might be a lesser problem than expected before the past summer.”
Gary R. Benz, CEO of Los Angeles-based GRB Studios made a strong case for trade shows: “GRB is a well-established global business, with many existing industry relationships that we would prefer to continue by way of in-person trade events. However, we have registered for MIPCOM Online and DISCOP Africa, and will also attend the virtual MIP Cancun this year. We are hoping ATF happens in December, as currently planned. If so, GRB will be in attendance in Singapore. In August, we participated in the virtual NATPE Budapest, and we will attend NATPE Miami in January 2021 — whether in-person or virtually. We predict that MIP-TV 2021 will be the first live event of 2021 for us to attend in person although we are open to other opportunities. Although we appreciate the opportunities that technology affords us to keep in touch, there is absolutely nothing like meeting in person!”
Berk Uziyel, CEO of The Hague, Netherlands-based SPI, said: that he plans to “continue our geographic expansion during 2021. The U.S. market will be one of our areas of [focus]. We are looking at different acquisition opportunities in the U.S. along with introducing some of our products like the app DIZI. We are getting ready to enter 2021 with a slate of both new and improved products. In terms of sales and acquisitions, we will attend virtual markets to pursue quality content for both linear and digital distribution, as well as to acquaint buyers with our portfolio of channels, digital services, and programming, including the SPI original My Dad’s Christmas Date. We are looking forward to attending all major trade events, as we have been doing consistently ever since SPI was launched in 1993, as soon as we are globally allowed to travel again in a safe way.”
Roxanne J. Barcelona, vp of Worldwide Division of Manila, Philippines-based GMA Network, thinks that “content markets in 2021 will be hybrids of physical and online experiences, if not held entirely online.” However, she said, “[I’m] very optimistic that through cooperation among the players, the international content industry will continue to thrive and will emerge much stronger after the end of this pandemic. GMA productions that were put on hold because of the lockdowns have resumed, but under the ‘new normal.’ GMA continues to actively participate in online editions of major TV markets. We are getting used to having meetings online, although online markets can never replace the energy and the spirit of networking and building relationships as experienced during a physical market.”
Sarah Zarka at the Paris-based Federation Kids and Family believes that next year “will see a healthier balance in the way we do business using a mix of online portals, as well as in-person meetings. Despite the challenges, we have also been redesigning innovative ways to launch our programs, using unique technologies and virtual tools.”
She continued: “Fortunately, demand for kids programming is stronger than before as children are spending far more time viewing content across a plethora of media. Our focus for the coming year will be to moving forward on some of our own productions that we will be ramping up in Q1 2021.”
“For 2021, we are optimistic as the distribution business has started to pick up post pandemic,” said Vivek Lath, managing director of Mumbai, India-based GoQuest Media. “In 2021, our focus will turn to developed Western markets.” The company plans to focus on its global expansion plans “by establishing a greater foothold in Europe and North America. To make this possible, in 2020, we hired the best of talents and expanded our sales team in these regions.”
He continued: “We will continue to participate in markets as they have been key drivers for sales for GoQuest. With the pandemic slowing down, we will resume travel, starting with participation at NATPE Miami and will join/attend future markets.”
(By Dom Serafini)
Audio Version (a DV Works service)