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Banijay, Mediawan execs lament ‘crazy’ cost of securing literary IP rights

The Finding the Silver Linings in Challenging Times panel at MipTV on Monday

MIPTV: Senior TV executives have bemoaned the sudden and “crazy” escalation in the cost of securing the rights to adapt literary IP, as commissioners continue to demand projects that reduce risk.

At a panel session here at MipTV in Cannes titled Finding the Silver Linings in Challenging Times, delegates heard now-familiar complaints about soaring inflation and rising production costs.

However, recent months have seen a premium put on yet another aspect of content development – the fees associated with licensing IP with international recognition.

The literary sector, in particular, appears to be cashing in on the TV trend for adapting bestselling novels, with agents and publishers now demanding higher fees than ever.

In his role as content executive at European production giant Banijay, Steve Matthews helps the group’s producers develop titles with global appeal. One way of doing that is to source well-known IP that already has an in-built audience.

The price of securing the rights to hit books has become prohibitively expensive, however, with Matthews telling delegates: “The book market has immediately shot up crazily. It’s in response to the conservative nature of buyers. They’re looking for more proof of concept than they were a few years ago when they were prepared to take on more risk.”

Paris-based producer and distributor Mediawan has also experienced the same issues. The company often faces escalating bidding wars for literary IP, one example being its recent deal to adapt the book Changer L’eau des Fleurs (Fresh Water for Flowers), by author Valerie Perrin.

The 2018 book tells the story of Violette, a cemetery caretaker in a small town in Burgundy. “It has sold four million copies around the world and there was huge competition to adapt it,” said Elisabeth d’Arvieu, CEO of Mediawan Pictures.

“It was actually an Italian producer who brought us the idea and we partnered with them to buy the rights for the whole Mediawan group. The cost of IPs has risen a lot because TV commissioners are less willing to take risks in the current market and are looking for projects based on proven material.

“Being agile and having the ability to partner with companies in other countries to share the cost of buying IP has proven very effective for us.”

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