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Cineflix Rights

Programming Profile

Cineflix Rights duo on seeking success in a shifting market


James Durie, head of scripted at Cineflix Rights, and Sandra Piha, senior VP of sales for the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia, discuss the changing market and the distributor’s scripted and factual slates for Mipcom.


What are your thoughts on the state of the market right now?
DURIE: Clearly, events of the last six months, heightened by the US strikes, have put an element of uncertainty into the business, which we’re hoping we’ll see the end of quite soon. But there are always opportunities. I still think that for the right kinds of shows at the right price point in the market, there are still a lot of places to take them and find success.


How have the strikes and the downturn in the economy impacted the factual market?
PIHA: The strikes and the advertising recession have inevitably affected our business. There are fewer commissions, smaller budgets and more curated acquisitions from channels instead of the usual big volume deals. We’ve continued working with our producing partners to help get projects greenlit via different funding models. We’ve seen some strong development slates on which we can’t wait to work together with our partners – let’s hope things turn around soon. The good news is that broadcasters have remained committed to successful returning brands that perform well.


James Durie,
Cineflix Rights

Are we seeing the end of the global production boom?
DURIE: There are cycles, for sure, and the period in which a lot of shows were being made for a lot of different broadcasters and platforms is changing. It’s becoming more local, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Previously, people were thinking very much globally or pan-regionally, but now we’re going back to local territories, local commissions from broadcasters and platforms, which offers great opportunity for distributors like us.


How is the growth of FAST changing your distribution strategy?
PIHA: The growth of AVoD and FAST has provided a hugely beneficial complementary revenue stream to our core distribution business. Building and scaling our AVoD partnerships has enabled us to monetise more efficiently the full breadth of our catalogue, and developing owned-and-operated FAST channels brings us one step closer to the consumer.
We’ve now launched five FAST channels in three markets across 10-plus platforms, including genre-based channels such as the Real Disaster Channel (featuring 20-plus seasons of Mayday: Air Disasters) in the US and Canada, and single-brand channels such as American Pickers in Canada. Both AVoD and FAST give us the opportunity to reach those audiences who may be moving away from the conventional TV viewing experience, and we see this is a high-growth area for our distribution business in the years to come.


Sandra Piha,
Cineflix Rights

DURIE: FAST is a fantastic opportunity. Every time there’s a new platform, there’s always a scramble towards it. Our non-scripted division, in particular, has had great success setting up channels directly. The impact for scripted at the moment is a little different. There are some success stories with long-running drama brands in the FAST space, but you need to have at least 100 hours so there aren’t many shows that are able to do that. But as time progresses, we’ll see the opportunities for scripted as well.


What shows are you lining up for Mipcom and is there something they have in common?
DURIE: It’s hard to find a thread that unites all the shows and, actually, that’s really the aim. We don’t want to be labelled as the distributor of just one kind of show. We have traditionally leant in on crime; it is a genre that will never cease to be a part of the schedules. There’s an appetite for it from viewers, producers, platforms and broadcasters, so we will always have an element of crime within our slate. But we’re also looking to really good, high-profile projects from talented production companies, like Men Up (1×90’) from Quay Street and BOOM, The Doll Factory (6×60’) from Buccaneer and Last King of The Cross (Seasons 1&2, 18×60’) from HELIUM, which really stand out for us.


Men Up

Headlining the scripted slate is a gothic thriller about a taxidermist. What can you tell us about The Doll Factory?
It’s based on a bestselling book by Elizabeth Macneal that she wrote in the heart of the #MeToo movement. She really wanted to write a book from the female perspective about the sort of themes that were coming up during that era. It’s set in Victorian London but plays with a lot of modern themes and styles to set it apart from your traditional period drama. It’s very suspenseful and shocking in parts, but at the same time has a beautiful love story and compact thriller story that runs through it.


Men Up is a movie for TV; what is the demand in the market for that format?
DURIE: I call it an indie movie. My background is in the movie business, with seven years at Miramax, and we had great success selling a lot of independent films into the TV market, to pay TV and free TV. It was always traditionally the Pay-1 and Free-1 windows. Those slots are still there but the movies aren’t going to theatres in quite the same way they used to. The appetite for films from broadcasters and platforms, as well as viewers, is still large. The 90-minute slot works well with broadcasters, and Men Up, which comes from the incredibly talented Russell T Davies and Nicola Shindler, plays on a lot of themes that we know are very successful in other light, heartfelt British comedies such as The Full Monty or Kinky Boots.


You also have a half-hour comedy series on the slate. How did that come about?
DURIE: Late Bloomer (8×30’) is from Pier 21 Films in Canada. Bell Media commissioned it for Crave, so it came through our Canadian office and was something we jumped on really quickly. Comedy can be difficult, but this is a very universal story, albeit based in a very local environment, about a young Sikh guy growing up in Toronto and still living at his parents’ house.


On the factual side, how is the market for travel programming changing?
PIHA: Travel programming continues to remain in demand and on many channels’ wishlists, especially in the current economic climate – people are looking for that escapism. Content that is talent-led, full of adventure, aspirational and a visual feast features throughout our Mipcom slate.
We’ve got a strong food slate, and this autumn, we’re adding Jason Atherton’s Dubai Dishes (10×60’, Rock Oyster Media Productions for ITV, UK). Our new adventure-travel series Hidden Frontiers Arabia with Reza Pakravan (6×60’, A-OK Media House for Discovery, US) follows the award-winning explorer and filmmaker as he ventures into unchartered and often dangerous territory to unlock the secrets of the mighty Arabian Peninsula. Whether it’s an exotic location or a local story, these programmes need to be rich with beautiful visuals and some strong take-home info.


The Doll Factory

How do you explain the ongoing true crime boom, and where is the genre going next?
PIHA: True crime is here to stay and will continue to evolve. People are just captivated by the genre, whether it’s macabre intrigue or just a fascination with the psychology of it all. And there are so many formats and ways of telling these stories. Limited series or feature docs that dive deep into a subject are still very much in demand. We’re excited to be launching King Con: The Life and Crimes of Hamish McLaren (2×60’, Perpetual Entertainment for Channel 7, Australia and Paramount+, UK) in Cannes, which is the unbelievable true story of the ruthless Australian who conned his lovers of more than US$70 million. Authentic storytelling with little use of reconstruction is another theme we’re seeing more of: visceral storytelling told via footage from the interrogation room, CCTV and police body cams. Our new series Murder Uncut (10×60’, Law&Crime Productions for True Crime Network, US) features cases driven by this compelling footage.


How important is having returning series on your Mipcom slates?
DURIE: It’s not easy getting recommissioned in this market at the moment, a market that is shrinking, so the fact we have shows like Last King of The Cross, Reginald the Vampire (Seasons 1&2, 20×60, Great Pacific Media, Modern Story, December Films and Cineflix Studios for SYFY, US) and Irvine Welsh’s Crime (Seasons 1&2, 12×60’, Buccaneer and Off Grid Film and TV for ITVX, UK) running into their second season is fantastic. With all three of those shows, we’re really building a franchise and hopefully they can play across multiple seasons.


PIHA: In Cannes, we’ll be launching a new season of ratings hit The Yorkshire Auction House (Seasons 1-3, 65×60’, STV Studios for Discovery+, UK, Really, UK), along with a second season of Nine Network’s successful medical series RPA: Royal Prince Albert Hospital (Seasons 1&2, 18×60’, McAvoy Media for Nine Network, Australia) and a fourth season of Expert Witness (Seasons 1-4, 60×30’, Rare TV for BBC 1, UK), which continues to perform extraordinarily well for BBC One.


What other shows in development can you tell us about?
DURIE: One would be Virdee (6×60’), a detective series based on AA Dhand’s bestselling crime novels, being produced by Magical Society and starring Sacha Dhawan. The BBC announced it at the Edinburgh TV Festival as one of the big shows for 2024, and we’re really excited about it too. It’s the first time we’re on board a big BBC drama like that. It really stood out for us and we wanted to get on board for multiple reasons. In Cannes, we’ll be having conversation about pre-sales and coproduction for Virdee.

More programming profiles

  • 10-10-2022

    James Durie and Richard Life of Cineflix Rights break down their scripted and unscripted distribution strategy ahead of Mipcom, as they showcase their new premium drama, YA and high-volume factual.


    UK-based distributor Cineflix Rights is arriving at Mipcom celebrating its 20th anniversary on the back of a strong year – in which it has expanded its investment in scripted and continued to extend the international footprint of its flagship unscripted brands.


    On the scripted side, the company is doubling down on drama with high-profile talent attached, including the Paramount+ Australia original Last King of The Cross (10×60’, Helium Pictures), a rags-to-riches gangster story following an immigrant with no education and no prospects who ascends to become one of Australia’s most infamous nightclub moguls.

  • 29-03-2022

    A new vampire dramedy and returnable unscripted series are among the titles selected by Cineflix Rights’ James Durie, head of scripted, and Richard Life, head of acquisitions, for the company’s playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings in the lead-up to MipTV.


    Montreal-headquartered media and production company Cineflix Media, which is behind shows such as drama Tehran on Apple TV+, was set up in 1998 by co-CEOs Glen Salzman and Katherine Buck. Cineflix Rights, the company’s UK-based distribution arm, now boasts a catalogue of more than 5,500 hours of programming across a wide range of genres.


    James Durie, Cineflix Rights’ head of scripted, says the company’s focus on contemporary thrillers and young-adult content is paying off, as the genres are increasingly popular among broadcasters and streamers alike.

  • 28-02-2022

    Tim Mutimer, Cineflix Media’s CEO of Rights, has new product to show buyers this week but is also emphasising the importance of returning titles, as he talks us through his slate for the London Screenings.


    Tim Mutimer, the UK-based CEO, Rights of international producer and distributor Cineflix Media, has a busy few days ahead of him but is relishing the return to face-to-face meetings and the normality of industry events.


    “We love meeting people in person, and doing it in London will be great,” he says. “We have plenty of meetings this week for the London Screenings, we’ll have people at Series Mania and we’ll be going full steam ahead to MipTV, so it feels like we’re getting back to some kind of normality, which is fantastic.”


    As far as the company’s new programme slate is concerned, Mutimer and the Cineflix Rights team will be giving buyers an early peek at a number of new titles this week. The firm is partnering with Aussie producer Mark Fennessy’s new prodco Helium on Last King of The Cross (10×60’), an Australian original from Paramount+ that Mutimer describes as “a truly authentic depiction of gangster life, set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic locations on the planet.”

  • 10-09-2021

    Chris Bonney, outgoing CEO at Cineflix Rights, discusses the key titles on the UK-based distributor’s new slate, its strong position in the market and opportunities for collaboration.


    For Cineflix Rights CEO Chris Bonney, the company’s new content reflects its unique place in the business. “We love our position as a creatively-led independent distributor, where we can go after the content that matches our own independence: distinctive, creative and commercially appealing.”


    Bonney joined Cineflix Media in 2012 to lead Cineflix Rights, the company’s sales and acquisitions arm. Under his watch, it has grown into the UK’s largest independent TV content distributor, selling a catalogue of over 5,000 hours of scripted and factual content to more than 500 broadcasters and streamers internationally.


    Cineflix is keen on noisy content, says Bonney. “We’re looking for projects that allow us to generate a larger share of the market, by tapping into the creative strength of the project. We’re medium-sized, proud of our independence and looking for programming that keeps us top of people’s minds.”

  • 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.

  • 01-03-2021

    Cineflix Rights head of acquisitions Richard Life, head of scripted James Durie and senior members of the global sales team reveal the UK-based distributor’s London Screenings playlist and discuss global trends impacting their 2021 slate.


    As the focus of international buyers shifts to the UK for February and the first two weeks of March, London-based Cineflix Rights, the UK’s largest independent TV content distributor, has launched a new web platform. The Cineflix Content Fest has been created to showcase the distributor’s premium factual and scripted programming.


    “Our engaging, interactive online experience will preview new factual and scripted content to global buyers in a creative way, allowing them to explore our new shows in their own time,” says Cineflix Rights head of acquisitions Richard Life. “We’re adapting to the new normal of bringing our slate to buyers via digital means.”


    “We now have great experience in delivering digital screenings to the market, as we did at the start of the first lockdown with the e-premiere of The Minister [8×60’],” adds head of scripted James Durie. “Alongside our returning series, we will be introducing two new scripted shows at the London Screenings.”

  • 16-11-2020

    James Durie and Richard Life of Cineflix Rights showcase the UK-based distributor’s Content London playlist, discussing its recent scripted focus and opportunities for collaboration across a diverse slate.


    London-based Cineflix Rights, the UK’s largest independent TV content distributor, provides premium scripted and factual programming to more than 500 broadcasters and platforms globally.


    For head of acquisitions Richard Life, Cineflix’s recent move into the scripted space is part of its ongoing evolution. “Traditionally, we’ve mainly focused on unscripted, which the business was built on. But in recent years, through our own productions with Cineflix Studios, third-party acquisition activity, and our joint venture Buccaneer Media, scripted has now become very important. James Durie, who joined us to head up scripted, is a big part of that,” he says.


    “We obviously realised the benefits of being across both scripted and unscripted. And with a proven track record in factual, we wanted to rival that in drama. We’ve had some great successes over the last two to three years, and are really looking to build on that,” adds Durie, pointing to the company’s signature scripted project.

  • 17-06-2020

    As the largest independent distributor in the UK, Cineflix Rights blends global scale with a boutique mindset and has a slate of programming on C21’s Digital Screenings to match.


    Among international distributors, Cineflix Rights stands out as an independent company able to take advantage of parent Cineflix Media’s global scale while retaining an ability to be agile and nimble in negotiations with producers and buyers.


    It’s a position CEO Chris Bonney calls the “sweet spot,” with the business also standing on a creative front foot that has helped it build a geographically- and genre-diverse slate that boasts scripted series such as Iceland’s The Minister, Israel’s Tehran and Russia’s An Ordinary Woman alongside factual series that take viewers to all corners of the globe.