Industry leaders on the challenges and opportunities ahead
By Justin Anderson, Andrew Jeffrey, Jillian Morgan
Here we are, as the home stretch of 2021 approaches and the lingering pandemic approaches, new entrants to the media landscape, mega-deals and calls for diversity continue to reshape film, television and
Diffusion. To get an idea of what awaits us for 2022 and beyond, Real screen surveyed the community of non-fiction and unscripted screens. Producers, buyers, distributors and agents have reflected on the past 18 months – from remote working to the streaming revolution, COVID-19 and efforts for diversity, equity and inclusion – and have offered predictions on what is yet to come. Changes in the entertainment landscape continue to rock the business, but the unanimous verdict is that the future looks bright – if the genre can keep pace with the change. Look for Part 2 of this special report tomorrow (October 21) on Realscreen.com.
As the industry enters a “post-pandemic” period, what is the biggest change you see in the way you are going to produce, buy and / or sell content?
Every project has to be worth the risk – we want big ideas and big changes and know that if we need to take a break or a pivot, we have back up plans ready and creative flexibility.
Jennifer O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Live-Action Non-Fiction Family, HBO Max
With the influx of entrants into the streaming media ecosystem, some of the continued attention for the post-pandemic period may involve even more agile acquisitions and the green light of upstream content.
Sylvia Bugg, Director of Programming, PBS
We inevitably have to make sure we meet the demands of this changing buyer landscape and develop a premium side to our business. Returning brands will always work, but maybe now is the end of content that “just does a job”. Paul Heaney, CEO, Bossanova
I don’t see a big change in the way we’ve learned to do business over the past 18 months. I’m not sure there will ever be a return to the way things were done before the pandemic.
Eli Lehrer, EVP and Head of Programming, History
We are now seeing more distributors getting involved in both content creation and direct-to-consumer sales.
childbirth – a trend that is expected to continue to develop after the pandemic.
Fiona Gilroy, Director of Sales and Content Acquisitions, Flame Distribution
What trends have emerged during the pandemic in terms of buying, selling and packaging content, and which will remain in the future?
The great premium documentary space, the unscripted space, the FAST AVOD world and the genuine drive to tell diverse inclusive stories with great talent – these are really the megatrends that we are experiencing in our world. Solange Attwood, Executive Vice President, Blue Ant International
Some of the organic and less “produced” ambiance that we captured during quarantine will remain.
Kathleen Finch, Director of Lifestyle Brands, Discovery, Inc.
Increased acceptance of digital and social media talent [as] long-lived unscripted stars are likely to continue to grow… Plus, the rise of the documentary filmmaker / director.
Marc Kamler, Partner and Head of Unscripted Content, A3 Artists Agency
Buyers spend more time in the development stages. We see this trend and the pressure for packaging continuing as networks / streamers compete for a place in the market.
Kate Harrison Karman, President, Cream Productions
Remote work is here to stay. From pitching to directing, it can all be done remotely as effectively as in person. Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, Co-Founders, World of Wonder
Which genres will thrive in a post-pandemic world, and which will not?
Big, cheerful, bright, daring, authentic, with a kind of unique touch. We’re also interested in social experiences that don’t take themselves too seriously. JO
This generation creates its own content because it emphasizes representation, and being part of the story and the conversation. So we need to figure out how to support and democratize this process, and help take UGC and first-person storytelling to the next level. Jill Dickerson, Senior Business Development Manager, Snap Originals
We’ll likely see more thinking about shows that may require large crews, in-person audiences, and / or travel, as all of this will be affected by future health alerts. MK
It’s more a question of tone for me than of gender. There is a huge appetite for the warm and heartwarming stories emerging from the pandemic… There has also been an increase in family / intergenerational viewing and popular facts can play a huge role in meeting audience needs for shared viewing . Johnny Webb, CEO, HiddenLight Productions
What challenges are you preparing for the coming year?
Find financing to develop and produce not so obvious stories… Buyers are taking less and less risk and opting for safer bets. Anna Godas, CEO, Dogwoof
Our challenge will be to break through the clutter and attract viewers on all available platforms. SB
COVID-19 is forcing us to constantly adapt the way we create content… Some of these adaptations have actually been beneficial and made us do our jobs more economically, more efficiently, more creatively. EL
Many producers report talent shortages in key production roles. We also need to consider the increased costs resulting from COVID-19 protocols and how these are covered in budget negotiations with broadcasters.
Chris Bonney, CEO, Rights, Cineflix Media
Budgets are shrinking and margins are shrinking. Unscripted has always been about volume for a
to an extent, but it has never been truer. Courtny Catzel, partner, co-head of New York non-scripted, ICM Partners
Funding budgets must stretch further. There is more pressure for co-productions to spread the burden of costs among several curators. FG
Personally, I don’t think the challenges are new – they’re just more pronounced as the world begins to return to “normal” and many of us work to redefine our business model after such a hectic time. KHK
This story first appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Realscreen Magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.