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Brown warns against SVoD rights grab

SVoD services that take global rights and prevent future income for programming “will kill our industry,” Amazon Studios’ European chief has claimed.

Georgia Brown

Speaking at the Royal Television Society’s London conference earlier this week, Georgia Brown, director of European originals at Amazon Studios, made the comments in response to a question from moderator and TV presenter Kirsty Wark who suggested SVoD services are looking to hoard all IP for themselves rather than cut deals.

“My background is very much in the business of funding shows for indies and helping them get that funding together. The idea of warehousing rights, sitting on rights and owning these things globally, so people can’t make money in the future is mad, that will kill our industry,” Brown said.

“I love it when I go to events like this, people come up to me and say they have this one deal, all rights, everywhere, that’s it, now they’re gone. If only they’d come and speak to us.”

She cited the example of six-part comedy Good Omens, a collaboration with Amazon and the BBC. The series, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s novel, will go on Amazon as a global original before moving to the BBC.

Brown said the BBC’s distribution arm BBC Studios would then “take those rights after we’ve finished, and can continue to sell them.” Her comments echo those of BBC drama chief Piers Wenger who told C21’s Content London last year that SVoD and broadcaster copros would continue despite numerous claims in the industry to the contrary.

Brown was speaking as news broke that Netflix had taken global rights to BBC hit drama Bodyguard in a deal with UK distributor ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

When asked by C21 why ITVSGE had taken that decision, a spokeswoman said: “Global rights are just one type of a deal; ITVSGE does hundreds of deals across hundreds of shows – they look at and weigh up what is right for each show.”

Tony Hall

Earlier on in the RTS conference BBC director general Tony Hall gave an impassioned address calling for more public funding for his organisation in light of his belief that Netflix and Amazon were not “making up the difference” in investing in the new UK content.

Hall cited data suggesting less than 10% of Netflix and Amazon’s catalogues comprise content produced in the UK.

However, Brown continued to play down the threat of streamers to the UK broadcasting ecosystem, saying that though they are investing in original content, “we will very much continue to invest heavily in the coproduction side.”

“That’s really important for us to take those UK show to a global audience. That’s absolutely not something we’re about to pull out of, we’re very invested in that,” she added. “UK content is hugely important and something again we really want to support PSBs [public service broadcasters] in. We’re not here to compete, we’re not here to tread on toes.”

Instead, Brown said Amazon was in the UK and Europe to exploit “the white space” and “offer audiences something they’re maybe not getting elsewhere.”

“The power of the producer to work where they feel most comfortable is important. I know we all sit and talk about stealing shows; ultimately that decision is not ours,” she concluded. “The producers will go where they want to be.”

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