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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Eccho Rights

Programming Profile

Eccho comes calling with new slate

20-10-2020

Continued production in Sweden means Eccho Rights is able to come to market with new ‘blue-sky’ titles for buyers seeking lighter content, as well as drawing on its Turkish and South Korean heritage, for its playlist on C21 Digital Screenings this week.

 

Swedish crime writer Camilla Läckberg has sold more than 22 million novels in 60 countries and been dubbed ‘the rock star of Nordic noir,’ so her television debut comes with high expectations.

 

But Hammarvik, the story of a police inspector who returns to her idyllic coastal home town of the same name for her mother’s funeral, doesn’t fall strictly into this genre, according to Nicola Söderlund, managing partner of distributor Eccho Rights.

 

“It’s a blue-sky crime relationship drama,” he says of the show, a Viaplay Original from Nordisk Film & TV, which debuted in October and is heading Eccho’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist.

 

“There is an appetite for lighter fare,” says the exec. Not only is ‘noir’ now a style that’s been replicated elsewhere – in territories like Spain, Italy and Russia – but amid the present pandemic, he perceives a degree of fatigue with it.

 

Söderlund
Nicola Söderlund, Eccho Rights

“Given the troubled times, people don’t want to see other people’s troubles because they are troubled themselves,” says Söderlund. “Relatable stories are very much in demand. Crime is still a very popular genre and always will be. It’s just the tonality of it is shifting a little.”

 

Hammarvik is the perfect example, adds the exec, of the 8×45’ series that’s scheduled for a second season next year, delving further into the old cases, forgotten romances and family feuds Läckberg opens up in her debut TV project. “It’s an amazing piece of work,” says Söderlund. “It’s stories with ordinary people but with her kind of magic – really something you want to binge.”

 

What’s also notable about Hammarvik is that it is emerging while there is a dearth of such shows, since Sweden remained open for shooting this year while most countries went into lockdown.

 

“We kept on producing so we have some fresh titles to bring to the market now, which is really exceptional. We are six or even nine months ahead of everybody else, so that, of course, is a huge advantage for us,” says Söderlund.

 

Hammarvik
Hammarvik

The second season of Love Me (6×45’) returned to Viaplay recently with record ratings. This is another series very much in the vein of a relationship drama, leaning towards comedy, even “Nordic romance,” ventures the Eccho exec.

 

Made by Warner Bros International TV Production, the show looks at love at different stages of life, passion among different generations and how people cope with romance, grief, laughter and tears when they all come at the same time. The title collected the prize for best drama at this year’s prestigious Kristallen awards, Sweden’s equivalent to the Emmys.

 

Also on Eccho’s Nordic slate is the second season of Honour (8×45’), the Sofia Helin-driven drama about a group of female lawyers who spend their days defending the downtrodden but end up also having to defend themselves. Produced by Bigster and another Viaplay Original, the first season was Sweden’s best-selling series last year. “It’s a very modern and compelling drama about female empowerment – very much of the moment,” says Söderlund.

 

Love Me
Love Me

He also flags up Sugar Daddy, a comedy-drama from Ukraine about a faded, aged movie star who decides to have one last big night out and spend his remaining money, only to become entangled with a gold-digging young woman who mistakes him for a ticket to the high life.

 

“It’s a story about how they become good friends and teach each other to live. It’s really funny and it’s the biggest show in Ukraine,” Söderlund explains. Not surprising perhaps, given that the 16×25’ series for broadcaster 1+1 comes from Studio Kvartal 95 – the same company behind comedy Servant of the People, which propelled its star, Volodymyr Zelensky, to become president of the country.

 

Staying in the CIS region, Eccho recently announced a deal with Sony Pictures Television to add a package of the international studio’s local-language series to its slate, among them Crane in the Sky from Russia.

 

Honour
Honour

“It’s a really beautiful production, a big-budget costume drama based on the true story of the USSR’s race to develop the first supersonic passenger jet – a previously untold part of the Space Race and Cold War era,” says Söderlund. Elsewhere in the package are Sony productions from Korea, Australia, Colombia and Mexico. “The deal with Sony is a big statement for us, which demonstrates a faith in our expertise in local markets that few distributors can rival.”

 

Since its inception, Eccho has also made a virtue of mining hit Turkish dramas and distributing them in territories where telenovelas are especially popular, Latin America, Eastern Europe, MENA and Asia in particular.

 

New on the company’s slate right now is The Red Room, which debuted on Turkish terrestrial channel TV8 in September and has become the country’s most watched drama series so far this autumn.

 

Sugar Daddy
Sugar Daddy

Produced by OGM Pictures, the 95×45’ series centres on a psychotherapist’s practice in Istanbul, telling stories of the vulnerable women and men who pass through its doors, delving into their pasts and looking to the future.

 

“It could actually be very suitable also for Western Europe,” says Söderlund, teasing sales to outlets in Spain and Italy, where Antena 3 and Mediaset’s Canale 5 have been previous buyers for Turkish series Woman and Sisterhood respectively. Sales into other countries are on the horizon too, adds the exec.

 

My Home My Destiny (115×45’), another TV8/OGM drama with the emphasis firmly on romance, had its first season earlier this year and is moving towards its second. It’s the story of a young girl whose poor parents gave her up for adoption who returns home as a grown woman to discover her roots and all the relationships that entails.

 

Crane in the Sky
Crane in the Sky

Turkey is also among the countries that has continued to make series while others put production on pause. “They are very quick to launch a series – much more agile than we are and they write the scripts during the recording, so they can change the course of the storylines according to what viewers like. It’s amazing,” says Söderlund.

 

South Korea was also among the territories quickest to return to production and it’s close to two years now since Seoul-based media conglomerate CJ ENM acquired Eccho. The transaction has changed little, according to Söderlund, other than the fact the Swedish distributor is now owned by one of Asia’s biggest entertainment giants.

 

It also means Eccho has direct access to one of the hottest territories in the global television landscape right now and is increasingly tapping into the rich seam of scripted and non-scripted originals and potential adaptations on offer, not just from CJ ENM. The firm earlier this year struck a deal to distribute SBS scripted formats Queen of Ambition and Incarnation of Money and tallies some 20 remakes in various stages of development around the world right now.

 

The Red Room
The Red Room

Söderlund references projects with TF1 in France and EndemolShine (now Banijay) in Italy but notes that format deals have become more challenging in the wake of recent events.

 

“What has happened since the pandemic stopped production is that producers have been busy developing their own shows, so now there is a huge pile of development projects to take into the market,” he says. “It’s very competitive and, of course, producers prefer their own homegrown projects instead of buying formats, so it’s a bit of a tricky situation now but nevertheless there’s still huge demand for them.”

 

With offices in Stockholm, Seoul, Madrid and Istanbul, Eccho is used to operating as a global entity and given that three of these bases have been able to either power on through the pandemic or bounce back quickly after its advent, Söderlund says the company has been relatively unaffected.

 

“Spring was pretty good for us in terms of sales. There was a bit of a dip during the summer but now it’s picking up again and the last quarter seems really good,” he says.

 

Being able to continue or resume production swiftly has been a help but also the fact that demand for European content is on the rise. This is partly due to the growing array of streamers that have entered the marketplace in the past six months but also because those same US studio-backed players are increasingly retaining programme rights for their own services.

 

“On the one hand, more platforms are coming in and asking for a lot of content, so the coming years will be fantastic for European production, since it’s stopped so much in the US and there’s not much coming out of there.

 

“On the other, the commercial free-to-air TV stations are suffering a lot due to the decline in ad revenues and the public service stations are under political threat in many countries, so it’s a very mixed picture and hard to tell where the market will head.”

 

In the midst of a global pandemic and a digital revolution the only certainty is uncertainty, says Söderlund. But he adds that Eccho’s raison d’être is to help third-party producers maximise their revenues in an environment with so many outlets and windows.

 

“That’s something that means we need to be much more involved in productions at an early stage, so in a way we are like executive producers as well, because we have to package, finance, market and sell the shows. From my personal point of view, it’s a more interesting way working,” he says.

 

While Eccho has been able to continue doing brisk trade despite the absence of physical markets, Söderlund admits he misses such events and notes that – just like some of the shows headlining the company’s slate right now – the business is all about relationships.