We at VideoAge have been busy looking at our old covers to refresh our memories about both the good times and the challenging ones that the TV biz has faced in the 41 years since we started publishing. But the executives quoted below (in alphabetical order) didn’t need any refreshing. They remembered everything vividly.

Susan Bender, president and CEO, SLB Enterprises

Most challenging times: “For an independent company like SLB Enterprises the biggest challenge is still trying to find that niche program from around the globe that continues to complement the new programming strategies of our Latin clients, especially now that the channels are more and more producing and co-producing their own shows, and buying less and less! In addition, an even bigger challenge these days is making producers understand the newer complexities in the region, and the needs of the clients. The smaller free-TV channels in Latin America are looking to receive programs already dubbed into Spanish.  So our mission is two-fold — find a program they would like to buy for their channel, and oftentimes, buying only if it is dubbed into Spanish.”

Most enjoyable times: “I have been blessed to work for two wonderful companies, Metromedia Producers Corp and Paramount Pictures — both companies giving me the opportunity to handle and take charge of the Latin American region, which became my passion. Thus, my clients have always been the most enjoyable part of my television journey.”

Matteo Corradi, CEO, Mondo TV

Most challenging times: “In June last year we formally announced a major expansion for our fast-growing production center, Mondo TV Studios S.A., in order to re-shore production — or part of it — in Europe. Managing this expansion and new structure would have been difficult at the best of times, but in the middle of an ongoing pandemic it’s been more challenging than even we expected.”

Most enjoyable times: “It has to be our alliance with Germany’s Toon2Tango and its extraordinarily smooth progress. The aim is to co-produce at least eight new animated TV series within the first four years of the partnership and join forces to distribute them worldwide. And — again despite the pandemic — it’s all going to plan.”

Janel Downing, VP, Latin America, All3Media

Most challenging times: “The pandemic has brought on tough challenges for everyone in the industry. For us, there were some initial hurdles to overcome when our business transitioned to working from home, but I am so proud of my peers and colleagues for stepping up to ensure our clients and audiences still have access to great shows.”

Most enjoyable times: “Any of the times we were able to see our clients in person! Looking back on our pre-pandemic industry, there was so much we took for granted. Hosting events, screenings, and simply catching up with our clients over lunch or a glass of rosé — those are the most enjoyable times.”

Loni Farhi, president, SPI International

Most challenging times: “2021, VoD, VoD, VoD.”

Most enjoyable times: “In 1981, I remember we were collecting video/television rights at Monte Carlo. SPI was a start-up [and there was a] very small market for us in Monte Carlo [with] a handful of clients and sellers in one place. I told my partner, ‘We will go into the hotel, do some buying and selling.’ His reply was: ‘But we are so small!’ My reply was: ‘Shhh, nobody will know. Come, let’s make it happen!’ And we did!”

Bruce Gordon, chairman, WIN

Most challenging/enjoyable times: “Every moment was and is both challenging and enjoyable, not just for the noted 41 years, but my 20 odd before that. 2020 and 2021 have perhaps been the most challenging of all, for everyone, but it has been satisfying to experience the resilience of not only my television business, but to see the majority adapt and thrive.”

Irv Holender, chairman and CEO, Multicom

Most challenging times: “A bad time occurred during the volcanic eruption in Iceland when we were stuck in Cannes for a few days with no ability to fly home…  [There was] also the recent lockdown with COVID. The inability to interact with friends and clients around the world on a personal basis [was disheartening].”

Most enjoyable times: “The good times occurred with the privatization of television and cable channels around the world, as well as the growth of the video/DVD businesses in the early ’80s. The beginnings of the digital platforms were another indication of the ever-evolving business we’re in and the need for content variations.”

John F.S. Laing, general manager, Rallie LLC

Most challenging times: “In 2020, [it was hard] reaping the benefits of technology without losing personal touch with the world. We now spend more time learning how to communicate than communicating!”

Most enjoyable times: “In 1989, as president of Orion Pictures International TV, [I was there to see us] conquer the world with one fax machine, no cell phones, and two office lines.”

Pedro Felix Leda, chairman, Ledafilms

Most challenging times: “Ledafilms’ early stages (1975) were quite challenging. To win the trust of the producers and worldwide distributors, not to speak about the clients, in so many markets, took time, hard work, and investment. But challenges didn’t stop there. The many economic downturns of different countries over the years, including devaluation of the currency, and sometimes the blocking of U.S. dollar remittances, made life very difficult at times.”

Most enjoyable times: “In the early ’70s we just had to market to one platform: Black-and-white free-TV. We enjoyed the travel to the different countries and having a lot of time for negotiating with interesting people when attending the international markets in the U.S. and Europe. Then things got more interesting with the start of cable television and home video. Recently, the digital platforms have been a game changer. All this made the business more and more exciting.”

James McNamara, vice chairman, Hemisphere Media Group

Most challenging times: “The years before the expansion of private TV in Europe. Back then it was totally a buyers market with one or two outlets per country. I still thank the divine inspiration for the roll-out of private TV.”

Most enjoyable times: “Those moments when you would see that a program you helped get off the ground turned into an international hit. The series Santa Barbara was a phenomenon in France and The Bold and the Beautiful certainly was memorable for the success it achieved in Italy and other European countries. Frankly, ’81-’21 have been very enjoyable for those of us who have been fortunate enough to attend markets like MIPCOM, and establish business and personal friendships with executives from all over the world.”

Hervé Michel, VP, UniFrance

Most challenging times: “There came a time when I decided to go and sell French programs in Asia. I can well remember my first visit to Japanese NHK-Mico to introduce French series Le château des Oliviers (1992), and my first trips to meet Chinese national and regional TV stations to start doing business (1993). Chengdu, Quangdong, even Shanghai had nothing to do with the cities we know now. The business relationships were so complex then. It was difficult to understand and do business with each other!”

Most enjoyable times: “I joined the French pubcaster France Television in the early ‘90s to set up the international TV program sales division in a time where everything was possible. You just needed energy, willpower, good content, a great team, appreciation of the international market, and off you went! I was opening markets where no French programs had been seen before.”

Chevonne O’Shaughnessy, president, ACI

Most challenging times: “Towards the end of the 90s, Canada started giving huge tax incentives to Canadian producers to shoot in Canada. The market was already starting to show some signs of change with the numbers in the video stores internationally beginning to come down. The tax incentive really helped recoup monies faster. However, that meant that we moved the business to Canada, which resulted in all the Los Angeles companies being drained. Those were the challenging times of laying off staff and figuring out what the next market would be, especially when the studios also started releasing all their library titles on video. The time came to rethink how we do business. Now, in 2021, the business is changing again with all these new streaming platforms.”

Most enjoyable times: “George [Shamieh] and I started producing and selling movies [and have been doing so for the last 30 years]. The late ’80s through the ’90s were a special time when we did 12 movies a year in Los Angeles with us owning our own studio. The film industry was fluid and everyone was making money. There were a lot of opportunities in the U.S. as well as international markets with DVD sales and then CD sales. The boom of the video stores was a very special time to be in the film industry.”

Cathy Payne, CEO, Banijay Rights

Most challenging times: “Our most challenging times have come in the form of the various mergers we’ve been through: Southern Star’s acquisition by Endemol, Endemol’s merge with Shine Group, and finally, Banijay’s takeover of Endemol Shine. The challenge is that you always want to bring the best from both sides, while also respecting people and their goals and ensuring the merged entity is up and running as soon as possible. It can be a difficult balance. That said, sometimes your worst experiences — when looked back on — can be the most rewarding and create some of the funniest memories in the long run.”

Most enjoyable times: “All the friends and long-term business relationships formed over the years across the industry have certainly made up some of my most enjoyable times, as well as the visits to so many wonderful countries. Closing those first big co-productions with new partners (both linear and non-linear) as they’ve entered the market has always been a great feeling, and remains so even when they happen to this day.”

Brook Peters, managing director and senior VP, Sales & Production Operations, Incendo

Most challenging times: “Ownership changes, administrative shifts, restructures… each comes with its own specific challenges and they seem to be never-ending in the television broadcast and production sector in Canada.  If I never have to put together another corporate PowerPoint to explain my job I will be a happy camper.”

Most enjoyable times: “Truly the last five years have been tremendous and exciting as we navigate the new, emerging platforms and services that bring content to consumers. While the pace of change brought trepidation at first, the reality of the new media landscape has created a golden age in television and created space for all audiences to be served. It’s exciting.”

(By Staff Reporters)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

Please follow and like us: