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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Cineflix Rights

Programming Profile

Variety is the spice of life for Cineflix

13-04-2021

UK distributor Cineflix Rights has a wide-ranging slate of content for Spring/Summer 2021. Head of scripted James Durie and head of acquisitions Richard Life talk us through the playlist and discuss how it reflects the needs of a buoyant market.

 

As the world slowly begins to return to normal, the audience’s appetite for new content is not going away. One trend that James Durie, head of scripted at Cineflix Rights, sees continuing is the popularity of crime shows.

 

“Crime is a huge part of any schedule – whether it’s linear broadcasters or SVOD platforms. The appetite for both sophisticated English-language and international crime shows and big North American procedurals is still massive,” he says.

 

Cineflix Rights’ new scripted slate consists of five shows, four of which are crime series. Despite being aware of the genre’s popularity, Durie insists this is a coincidence. What his company has been looking for is variety within the crime genre, something that he says buyers are also after.

 

“For scripted, variety can come from the source location and the territory the show is produced in. We are used to production territories defining sub-genres, like UK cozy crime and Scandi Noir, but you can now add many more to that list. People are consuming more and more content and it’s inevitable that buyers are looking wider to fulfill that brief,” says Durie.

 

Durie
James Durie, Cineflix Rights

Cineflix Rights’ crime slate fulfils this, with series from all over the world. One show that arrives with a domestic pedigree is Israeli series Manayek (10×45’), from Yoav Gross Productions. The show, which tells the story of a veteran police officer tasked with taking down his corrupt best friend and colleague, has convinced Durie of the potential of Israeli IP, following the global success of Cineflix Rights-distributed Tehran (16×60′) on Apple TV+.

 

“Israel is in a fantastic spot at the moment. They’re taking risks in storytelling and development like the Scandinavians have been doing for the last 10 years. We’re also seeing the same from a number of other territories including Russia and Quebec with some fantastic content coming from them. As viewers become accustomed to seeing content from those areas, we’ll see a lot more of it in the future,” Durie says.

 

Another show Cineflix Rights is hoping will develop its offering is Rebecca (8×60’), a new French crime series based on the ITV/Netflix series Marcella, produced by Buccaneer Media, a Cineflix Media JV company. Rebecca was acquired from French prodco Elephant prior to its broadcast on TF1 and the remake is set in Paris. The fast-paced thriller follows a tormented yet brilliant detective who is battling depression and a series of blackouts while piecing together a brutal murder investigation that increasingly brings her inner circle and past investigation into the unfolding story.

 

Life
Richard Life, Cineflix Rights

While international language programming is becoming more important to Cineflix Rights’ strategy, English-language content remains crucial as does the ability to stand out in a crowd. According to Richard Life, head of acquisitions, the distribution market is demanding “a greater deal of originality” than ever before.

 

“The inexorable rise of the streamers has raised the bar for everyone. Premium content is the name of the game and regardless of budget, the shows we take to market have to ooze quality. This rapid SVOD growth also means there are more opportunities to sell than ever, not just globally, but regionally as well.”

 

Durie believes Canadian crime series Coroner, now in its third season, is a perfect example of how to take advantage of this growth: demonstrating that shows that can work across different platforms will be most in demand. Produced by Canadian prodcos Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films, and Cineflix Studios, the series follows a widow who investigates suspicious deaths.

 

Manayek
Manayek

“If you look at where Coroner has been sold over the last 18 months, it’s a real mix of free TV, pay TV, and SVOD platforms. They’ve all bought into the show and have seen the audience it delivers, while taking advantage of its returnability,” says Durie.

 

Cineflix Rights sees having a UK crime series on its slate as a necessity. Durie feels the company could have a long-running international hit on its hands in new title Whitstable Pearl (6×45’), acquired from UK prodco Buccaneer Media.

 

In the drama, Kerry Godliman (After Life) plays a crime-solving restaurant owner in a Kentish seaside town. Iconic Norwegian filmmaker Oystein Karlsen is executive producing.

 

Coroner
Coroner

Durie feels the series ticks a lot of boxes for Cineflix Rights. “When we looked at the slate, one of the top priorities was to have a long-running UK procedural,” he says. “It’s an essential component that transcends nationalities and exists in its own sub-category. We see Whitstable Pearl as a long-running series with a quintessentially cozy crime dynamic, but also something that offers variety in terms of comedy and quirkiness.”

 

Another offering on Cineflix Rights’ slate is Quebecois dark comedy Happily Married (10×45’), which comes from Montreal prodco Casablanca.

 

Durie says the show is designed to provide variety as audiences want increasingly different things. “We always look for different sources of content to bolster what we’ve already got. We have great shows from the UK and Australia, but this needs to be supplemented by more international content,” he says.

 

Whitstable Pearl
Whitstable Pearl

The same is true in the unscripted sector, with buyers’ demands reflecting their audiences’ appetites for a wide range of factual content. According to Life, a wide net is the best option. “We need enough variety in our shop window to not only get as many buyers as possible to stop and look, but to also get them inside the door to dig deeper into our catalogue. We want to make sure we have a good selection of unscripted content that can offer more or less something for everyone,” he says.

 

Another important feature of an unscripted show is its versatility. Life gives the example of The Story of Late Night, produced for US network CNN by Canada’s Cream Productions.

 

“It’s a big blue-chip series about how late-night TV has reflected American culture, and the fact that it was made for CNN means the bar is very high. We have a high-end show that can work across premium TV channels, streaming platforms, and linear broadcasters. Buyers want to have as many opportunities as they can, and everyone wants quality,” he says.

 

The Story of Late Night
The Story of Late Night

For Life, quality isn’t always linked solely to budgets. It is the potential for audience engagement around the world that he sees as vital for Cineflix Rights’ factual programming slate. One show that he feels offers this essential authenticity and relatability is My Big Family Farm (38×60’), an ob doc series from London prodco Renegade Pictures and WPP-owned Motion Content Group that follows the annual ups and downs of a farming couple and their nine children. Life says international buyers have sat up and taken notice because these essential human-interest elements are baked into the show.

 

“We saw something unique about the show that was universal: a family working together to achieve a goal is relatable anywhere,” he says. “A very British show can become successful internationally, and a lot of that is to do with its returnability. We want shows that can come back year after year as they offer quality and certainty for buyers. If they see something unique that they can put across 10 weeks, buyers are likely to go for it.”

 

Another UK-focused show Cineflix Rights plans to sell internationally is The Day Will & Kate Got Married, part of a commemorative franchise from Scottish prodco Finestripe Productions.

 

My Big Family Farm
My Big Family Farm

Life says there is always interest in royal programming, particularly from US audiences. “It just needs to be a global event that people are interested in, but we’re always looking outside the UK. Even in the initial stage when we’re talking about which UK channel it would work on, we’re looking ahead to its international potential,” he says.

 

With the events of the past year, it’s no surprise there is a medical science series on Cineflix Rights’ slate. However, Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer (4×60’), which tells the story of how humanity has overcome some of history’s deadliest diseases, was actually developed before Covid-19 and takes a deep dive well beyond the present-day crisis.

 

As such, Life feels that the timing of the series premiering in May is somewhat fortunate in terms of audience interest. He believes the series, produced by London’s Nutopia and backed by UK and US pubcasters the BBC and PBS, has the pedigree and relevance to have huge appeal around the world.

 

Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer
Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer

Another factual series mentioned is World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys, a returning series produced by UK prodco BriteSpark Films for the UK’s Channel 5.

 

According to Life, the series is an excellent example of an ongoing trend in unscripted content. “People still want escapism, but now we’re seeing a move towards immersive factual series that grip you,” he says. “Audiences are nowadays also looking for takeaway value and Railway Journeys does that very well.”

 

“The show is visually amazing, but it’s not wallpaper, it has really good specialist factual content in the form of history, science, and culture. Audiences still want easily digestible formats, but they want to learn something in the process.”

 

World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys
World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys

Another immersive factual series on Cineflix Rights’ slate is Homicide: Hours To Kill (78×60’), which follows experts who reconstruct the 24 hours leading up to a murder. The series is made by Cineflix Media’s North America-based production arm, which helps the workflow of both scripted and unscripted projects.

 

Life says the workflow between the two company divisions is helping it stay on top as an independent distributor. “We don’t have the scale of vertical integration like the big studios, but it does mean we can work more closely and effectively with our own group to create and finance shows with international appeal. This helps complement each other’s business well,” he says.

 

“Our relationship with international prodcos also opens up the possibility of coproductions in the future. Not only that, but the job of a distributor in general is changing to be more involved upfront and in the early stages of production.”

 

Homicide: Hours To Kill
Homicide: Hours To Kill

Cineflix Rights’ factual slate continues to be varied with its final offering: I Got Lucky (14×30’) from Canada’s Cream Productions. The show uses dashcam and CCTV footage to tell stories of people who have narrowly avoided death in extreme situations.

 

While a more traditional format, Life says the show falls under Cineflix Rights’ need for variety. “Any show we pick up has to be of a certain quality, so it will ideally work on all types of platforms,” he explains. “The opportunity is there in the market and content should be measuring itself against that.”

 

“Our slate demonstrates that – there’s a thematic variety but they can also work for different platforms, different slots and different territories. Once you have that you’ve got something to build on.”



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