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Tesera Entertainment

Programming Profile

Seasonal produce


Year-old distributor Tesera Entertainment has stocked up on festive treats for the holiday season. Company president Gene George talks us through his playlist on C21’s Digital Screenings.


Los Angeles-based distribution firm Tesera Entertainment was launched last year by industry veteran Gene George.


George, a former executive VP of worldwide distribution at Lionsgate and Starz Media, set up the company with the primary focus of securing international pre-sales of TV movies for some of his producer contacts.


Gene George,
Tesera Entertainment

Since then, he has acquired international distribution rights to 10 films, most of which are Christmas movies from broadcasters including Hallmark and Lifetime. Three of the films on Tesera’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist this week also appeared in the recent holiday-focused Theme Festival.


First up is A Christmas Princess, made for free-to-air broadcaster Ion Television in the US, about a European prince who visits New York for a royal holiday dinner and falls in love with the chef planning the event.


Next is The Road Home for Christmas, produced for A+E Networks’ basic cable channel Lifetime, in which two musicians embark on a road trip home for the holidays and discover they are meant for each other.


A Christmas Princess
A Christmas Princess

The third film in Tesera’s playlist is Check Inn to Christmas, made for Crown Media-owned cable channel Hallmark Channel, which follows a law graduate who returns home for the festive period to the local inn her family runs and falls in love with the son of a family operating a competing inn.


“They’ve all done incredibly well,” George says of the three movies. “Several of the key cable networks in the US air 30 to 40 original Christmas movies each year so there’s a huge demand for them – not only in the US but throughout the world. The goal is to have a slate that represents some of the best of the best in the holiday programming genre across a variety of platforms.”


The year-old company has also acquired other telefilms for distribution and they too feature in the company’s playlist on C21 Digital Screenings. They include romance-themed holiday movies Christmas Matchmakers, which aired on Ion TV; Lifetime original Staging Christmas; and A Royal Christmas Engagement.


The Road Home for Christmas
The Road Home for Christmas

The playlist also include three films from Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network: Baking Christmas, Carole’s Christmas and One Fine Christmas, as well as romance Sister of the Bride (Hallmark).


According to George, the biggest demand for holiday programming at the current time is for romance-themed movies, as opposed to family- or animal-themed films, which have been popular holiday fare in the past.


“Now the desire and trend is more for romantic Christmas stories, so that’s what our slate is focused on and what the ratings for most of the networks are being driven by,” he says.


Baking Christmas
Baking Christmas

The exec also points out the importance of having a US network attached to the TV movies that Tesera acquires, as this helps international broadcasters to understand the intended demographic of each film.


“Our movies all have US networks attached, networks that specialise in this type of content, like Hallmark and Lifetime and so forth,” he says. “When licensing this content internationally, having a US network attached does help a lot of the overseas platforms to understand what the movies really are and gives them better clarity on what they’re acquiring.


“If they know it’s a movie that’s being produced for Hallmark, they have an understanding of what the demographic might be, what kind of production values and cast might be attributed to the project, what kind of social media campaign and marketing backing the network might give it that could transcend internationally. So we try to only acquire and distribute content that already has that US network attached.”


One Fine Christmas
One Fine Christmas

George adds that while Tesera targets “genres that are very specific to the needs of most of the traditional linear networks,” its movies would also be suitable for OTT platforms.


“We’re seeing a lot of Christmas movies turn up on a lot of SVoD platforms, there’s no doubt about it,” he says. “Last year there were close to 120 original Christmas movies that were produced between all the networks and there were quite a few that were produced by platforms like Netflix and Disney+ and so forth.”


“The primary focus for me has been with the traditional linear networks, but we are doing deals with SVoD and OTT platforms. Well-produced, quality, feel-good entertainment that is relatable is in demand across a variety of platforms, so the movies in Tesera’s playlist are not limited to just one type.”


Sister of the Bride
Sister of the Bride

Tesera’s main distribution business occurs in Europe, particularly in France, Italy and the UK, and in Canada, where George says US holiday movies are historically most popular. However, it also distributes to regions including Latin America, Australia, Spain, South Africa and the Middle East.


While TV movies may be Tesera’s core focus for the time being, the company is also eyeing opportunities to add series to its slate, according to George.


“Right now, the focus is on television movies that fall into specific categories that are consumable for the traditional linear networks. Things like Christmas movies, which are a big part of my slate, as well as female thrillers, action films and romantic comedies,” George says.


“Series are a little more challenging to acquire as an independent company, especially with many networks around the world retaining a broader amount of rights.


“But there are still some platforms in the US, cable networks specifically, that are willing to partner with distributors and align with companies like mine for the international rights while they retain the US broadcast rights. So I’m looking at opportunities there.”

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  • 04-09-2023

    Tesera Entertainment president Gene George discusses the uptick in demand for scripted true-crime thrillers, FAST challenges and how the US company is capitalising on shifts in the market to expand its distribution catalogue.


    LA-based Tesera Entertainment is heading to Mipcom in October with an expanded catalogue of over a dozen new TV movies (TVMs) and a growing sense that, even against the backdrop of a broader industry downturn, new opportunities are springing up for independent, nimble distribution outfits with high quality content.


    Founded in 2019 by president Gene George, the former exec VP of worldwide distribution at Lionsgate and Starz, Tesera is focused on three main areas: its international distribution business; a fast-growing aggregation business; and now, as a smaller part of the company, some on-going consulting work.