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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Newen Connect

Programming Profile

Newen champions European content

06-04-2021

The distribution arm of French production group Newen is tapping into new global demand for European programming, says EVP Leona Connell, who talks us through the company’s Digital Screenings playlist.

 

Newen Connect, the distribution arm of French production group Newen, has been “incredibly busy” during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to EVP of distribution Leona Connell.

 

“The buyers we work with from channels and platforms all seem to be actively looking for content at the moment,” she says. “They need to fill the void that has unfortunately been left by some of the studios’ productions having slowed down or come to a halt.

 

“So we’ve got a lot going on as there’s a lot of demand for content. That, coupled with the fact so many platforms are increasing their geographical reach or launching new services, means buyer activity has really increased over the past year or so.”

 

Among the types of content currently in demand, according to Connell, is drama – a genre that has exploded around the world in recent years. The exec adds that in particular demand is drama from Europe, a wealth of which can be found in Newen Connect’s catalogue.

 

Connell
Leona Connell, Newen Connect

“The fact that our slate originates from different European countries seems to be of interest to buyers,” she says. “European content is in demand at the moment; in fact there has probably never been a better time to sell such programming. Not only is it popular with European broadcasters but also in other parts of the world – for example, in North America, where channels and platforms have come to realise over the last few years that this sort of content can complement the US or Canadian shows they are getting, offering quality and a fresh perspective.”

 

With this in mind, Newen Connect is featuring five European dramas on its playlist in C21’s Digital Screenings this week. The first of these, L’Opéra, is an 8×52’ series produced by Newen’s Victoria Production, Telfrance, Belga Productions and OCS Studio for French pay TV channel OCS.

 

Set in the world of the Paris Opera Ballet, the series follows the stories of three characters: a 35-year-old principal dancer in danger of being laid off after too much partying; a 19-year-old black ballerina who recently joined the company and must fight prejudice to prove herself; and the new director of dance who is determined to boost the international recognition of the company.

 

“We’re very excited about this series because it deals with a number of contemporary issues, such as racial discrimination and social inequality. That, coupled with the stunnig backdrop of the opera and the strong storyline of three individual characters, is really quite different and unique and will stand out,” Connell says.

 

Also from France is H.I.P (High Intellectual Potential), an 8×52’ crime procedural produced by Septembre Productions and Itinéraire Productions for Newen’s parent company, French broadcaster TF1. The show is about a cleaning lady at a police station with a very high IQ who helps the police track down and capture highly intelligent criminals. In exchange for her help, the police must reopen a missing persons investigation into her first love, who disappeared 15 years before.

 

L’Opéra
L’Opéra

“H.I.P feels really fresh because the main character is a very strong personality; she’s a bit like Erin Brockovich. It’s generating huge amounts of interest internationally and we’re finalising a number of deals for this series at the moment,” Connell says.

 

Heading over to the Nordics, Newen Connect has selected Swedish crime drama Dough (8×45’) for its playlist. Produced by Nexiko Drama and Inland Film for Sweden’s pubcaster SVT, the series follows a divorced mother of two on the verge of a personal and financial breakdown who suddenly stumbles upon €5m from a botched robbery.

 

Clueless about how to launder the money, she purchases a failing bakery and unwittingly hires the robber’s wife, who has no idea that the money from the botched robbery that put her husband in prison is now in the hands of her new boss.

 

H.I.P
H.I.P

“Dough is a thriller with two strong female leads and a fair amount of humour injected into it,” Connell says. “It feels quite distinctive and different to anything else I’ve seen.”

 

Also from the Nordics is Danish crime drama White Sands (8×45’), which is produced by Deluca Films and broadcaster TV2. The series follows two police officers who are secretly deployed to the tourist paradise of Hvide Sande to solve the brutal murder of a German surfer. Nobody in the town trusts the police, so the pair have to go undercover as a happily married couple from the big city moving to the North Sea coast to start a new life.

 

“White Sands again has a bit of humour in it but a strong police detective story at its heart. We anticipate it doing very well for us because it’s that mix of a thriller detective story coupled with a little bit of romance and a beautiful natural setting with lots of light, which will make the series stand out,” Connell says.

 

Dough
Dough

The final drama in Newen Connect’s playlist comes from the Netherlands and is inspired by a true story. Produced by Newen-backed prodco Pupkin for Dutch broadcaster VPRO, The Spectacular (4×52’) is set in the 1980s during a criminal investigation into two IRA attacks on British military personnel stationed in the Dutch region of Limburg.

 

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, British security service MI5 coerces an IRA volunteer to infiltrate the inner circle of legendary bomber Declan Moore, who is soon expected to lead an IRA active service unit in mainland Europe.

 

“Dramas based on true stories seem to be gathering a lot of interest and doing well at the moment,” Connell says. “The Spectacular is a spy thriller with two strong female leads and is a pure European story because it’s based in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.”

 

White Sands
White Sands

All of the dramas in Newen Connect’s playlist are in the post-production stage, according to Connell, except H.I.P, which is completed and ready to go.

 

In the unscripted space, Connell says she is seeing demand for in-depth investigative documentaries and primetime, feel-good entertainment shows.

 

“In terms of factual programming, there seems to be a strong demand for quality current affairs programming from a global audience wanting to know more about the world around them. High-end documentaries continue to sell well,” the exec says. “On the entertainment side, we’ve definitely seen a need for primetime entertainment shows with a feel-good factor.”

 

The Spectacular
The Spectacular

With this in mind, Newen Connect is featuring one documentary, one primetime entertainment format and one factual entertainment format in its Digital Screenings playlist.

 

The documentary, Instagram: A Life Under Filter (1×90’), is produced by Newen’s factual arm Capa Press for Arte in France and is currently in post-production. The doc recounts the history and global phenomenon of the popular photo and video app, but also examines the serious threat it poses to the emotional and psychological well-being of the 1.5 billion people around the globe who use it regularly.

 

The primetime entertainment format, meanwhile, is The Wonderbox, a weekly shiny-floor show produced by Capa Press for France 3, in which celebrities are each presented with a box full of memories and nostalgic surprises.

 

The Wonderbox
The Wonderbox

“The Wonderbox perfectly suits what audiences are looking for at the moment in terms of feel-good content,” Connell says. “The idea is that the boxes are full of memories from the past, such as pictures of a beloved person from their childhood or a song they sang a lot when in their teens, and each memory provides an opportunity for somebody to come on stage and re-enact those memories or sing those songs with them.”

 

The format for The Wonderbox, which is now in its second season on France 3, has been optioned in the US, Spain, Italy, French-speaking Belgium, the Netherlands and Portugal.

 

The factual entertainment format, A Real Job: Nurses (8×50’), is produced by De Mensen for Belgian broadcaster VTM and follows five celebrities as they embark on a three-week internship to experience first-hand the high-pressure, high-stakes day-to-day life of a hospital nurse.

 

A Real Job: Nurses
A Real Job: Nurses

“A Real Job: Nurses is a lovely format that we’re very proud to be representing,” Connell says. “It launched on VTM in September last year and has been doing so well, gaining a 26.3% share of viewers in the 18-54 age range and nearly a 28% share of viewers between the ages of 18 and 44. It’s a celebration of the work of nurses, and there isn’t a better time to be doing that after all the wonderful work they’ve been doing over the last 12 months.”

 

A Real Job: Nurses has been optioned for local production in Israel, Germany and the Netherlands, according to Connell.

 

Finally, Newen Connect is featuring one children’s show in its playlist – a 52×11’ animated series called Splat & Seymour. Based on the book series Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton, the show follows the daily adventures of two unlikely best friends, Splat the cat and Seymour the mouse, as they navigate life in Moggy Bottom and learn the power of kindness and solidarity. It is produced by Blue Spirit Productions for TF1 in France.

 

Splat & Seymour
Splat & Seymour

“Splat & Seymour has been a huge success for TF1’s children’s slot,” Connell says. “It’s brought in a 32% share in the four- to 10-year-old demographic and rose to 55% in one of the transmissions at the end of 2020. A lot of channels and platforms in the children’s content space have been focusing on proven brands and haven’t always been willing to take too many risks with other content. But 2021 might be the year to start exploring new content and this, in my opinion, is the perfect one to do it with because we’ve got volume, it’s based on great IP that has won awards and has great ratings.”

 

Progressing through 2021, Connell says Newen Connect and the wider Newen group will look to expand its business geographically and continue to invest in production companies and content to exploit internationally.

 

“The volume of content we’ve got is increasing rapidly,” she says. “On the drama side last year we had 20 new programmes; this year we’ve got 33 and next year will have 44. Newen Connect will be strengthening its sales team to manage this additional influx of content and support our production companies and partners. We’re looking to ramp up fast.”



More programming profiles

  • 13-11-2020

    In this Content London On Demand campaign, Newen Connect’s Rodolphe Buet reveals his international expansion plan and how he intends to stay one step ahead of the game, while talking though his Content London playlist.

     

    “If there is some positive impact of the Covid-19 situation, it’s on the activities of companies like ours,” says Rodolphe Buet, chief distribution officer at Newen Connect.

     

    The TF1/Newen company launched just before the virtual version of Mipcom, bringing together the commercial activities of distribution entities Newen Distribution, TF1 Rights (aka Droits Audiovisuel) and in coordination with London-based Reel One International.

     

    As broadcasters and digital platforms need to fill the gaps left by the lack of sporting and other live events, Buet says: “We’ve never seen such an appetite from broadcasters for our library and most companies similar to Newen Connect will enjoy great years in terms of revenue.”

     

    Newen Connect is currently handling around 1,000 films and more than 5,500 hours of TV programmes. The multi-genre catalogue of drama, animation, documentary and unscripted programming covers “almost every kind of project a broadcaster or digital platform will be looking for, except for web series where we are just starting our activities,” says Buet.
    READ MORE