By Samuel Kissous 13-01-2017
2016 was a year of significant transition across the international broadcast and digital content industries. The tectonic shifts we’ve seen in digital content acquisition and consumption, mega industry mergers and fights over formats and rights are going to make themselves felt even more keenly in the 12 months ahead.
Here are some of the key trends we could see developing – and in some cases will hope for – in the international factual industry in the coming year:
1. SVoD giants ramping up investment in factual content and formats
By all accounts, the launch of Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime has been a significant success. Certainly, the media reaction has been overwhelmingly positive as Amazon Prime used the launch to fuel its global expansion, rolling out into more than 200 markets, including Canada, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and India. We’re not privy to the ratings but all the signs are there that the series has been a break-out success.
This and rumblings that both Netflix and Amazon Prime are turning their attention to acquiring significantly more factual and format content would seem to be a natural progression for the streamers as their business model matures.
To date, the services have been driven by scripted content, but the success of the Clarkson juggernaut and Netflix’s hire of Bela Bajaria as VP of content with a remit to develop original unscripted programming are signs that the factual and formats industry could experience a production boom similar to the scripted sector in the coming months.
Let’s hope so. It would make sense, with key formats clearly popular and more adaptable to each market, and production budgets just a fraction of those for lavish dramas, which surely cannot be indefinitely expanded.
2. A new cycle of indie creativity and partnerships
The big fish appears to have gobbled up most of the obvious prey in the content industry. This has resulted in an exodus of strong executive talents who are setting up their own independent production companies. We’re going to see a renewed dynamism on the indie sector as a result.
There is also a trend for TV companies to find new ways to partner and collaborate with businesses in different countries, to create scale and encourage creativity to flourish, rather than following the traditional model of a consolidating production giant.
We at Pernel Media have always focused on an international way of doing business. We’ve recently delivered our first UK commission for Channel 5, we’re working more and more with US broadcasters, and we’re expanding our slate of ambitious factual series with global appeal.
3. The power of strong formats brands
The power of formats and rights ownership certainly won’t diminish in 2017. Last year we saw some extraordinary developments in the format world, with Love Productions’ mega hit The Great British Bake Off moving to Channel 4 from BBC1 in the UK. In France, there was a similarly intriguing turn of events as ITV Studios France took back the rights to The Voice, which was previously produced by Shine France.
And it’s this power that has led to another key trend that is likely to further develop internationally in 2017.
4. Broadcaster’s want to participate in rights ownership
Like the Bake Off controversy, there was a similar battle in France, with production group Newen being acquired by TF1. As a result, public broadcaster France Télévisions, which was a significant buyer of Newen’s production output, found itself in an uncomfortable position as many of its shows are now owned by a competing broadcaster, after it spent years investing in a range of programme brands.
But France Télévisions has hit back, having made a major strategic announcement that it will ramp up its investment in French drama in order to spearhead an export expansion. This is great news and hopefully an approach that will lead to a similar factual content drive.
Broadcasters worldwide are reinventing their business models and increasingly becoming content producers themselves.
5. Politics and international regulations
We will feel the effects of politics more than ever in 2017. Brexit and the upcoming French and German elections threaten to bring fundamental change across the content business.
The French news channels are booming with an unprecedented four dedicated domestic news channels having become staple viewing for millions, driven by terrorist attacks and a public thirst for political debate, as was shown by the primetime ratings of the French presidential primary debates.
But perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact that a reality TV star is about to move into the White House.
However this year plays out, there are bound to be big political headlines and changes in regulations.