NATPE 2015: FremantleMedia’s Hayley Dickson on the Current State of the Digital Content Market

/ Jan 19, 2015


For the next three days, many executives in the TV and digital entertainment industries will gather in South Beach to discuss the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating, distributing, and monetizing their content.

To be fair, a few deals will also be signed — NATPE is as much a marketplace as it is a conference for people to discuss the issues that plague their businesses — but for those interested in the future of video content, NATPE continues to be a must-attend event on the annual calendar.

Before the madness begins, we took a few minutes to sit down with Hayley Dickson, VP of acquisitions and development at FremantleMedia International, and asked her to share her thoughts on where the current TV and digital entertainment market is and what might be in store in the coming months.

Can you give us a sense of what the international marketplace looks like for digital series sellers? Are there particular genres/formats that are more in demand?

Hour-long dramas with narrative storytelling that create a compelling connection to the characters are in demand. The challenging part is finding US first-run digital dramas that have high enough production values and have accumulated enough volume to package and sell. To date, short-form comedy has seen the most success in the digital medium (which unfortunately is not what international broadcasters want or need). Humor, for obvious reasons, doesn’t always translate from one culture to another.

“Blue,” a series from WIGS starring Julia Stiles and written and created by Rodrigo Garcia, is a textbook example of a top tier 10×60 hour digital series. We actually launched it at MIPCOM to international broadcasters worldwide, and in just a few months, it’s been a huge success for us. We are looking for more like this to launch at MIPTV in April.

I’ve been told multiple times that where a show runs in the US plays a role in what kind of interest it gets internationally. For instance, if a show initially ran on YouTube, it has a tougher time than something that originally aired on Hulu or AOL. Would you agree?

Absolutely. This is pretty standard. However, it comes down to the quality of the content. And more and more we’re seeing best-in-class content coming from the digital medium — top talent, both on camera and behind the camera. Quality content can come from anywhere, so it’s up to the distributor to help the foreign broadcaster understand how these platforms have evolved in recent years and the importance that they have in the US.

Major network dramas sell themselves. However you know you have a good distribution partner when they’ve sold a digital series to double-digit territories for license fees that rival those seen at cable broadcasters. It’s our job to educate international broadcasters about the evolution of digital platforms in the US and the quality programming coming from them.

It appears marketplaces like NATPE are increasingly focusing on digital. But what kind of interest do digital sellers get versus traditional?

Everyone is fascinated by what’s going on in digital because it’s constantly evolving. Even the biggest players are still learning and it’s a trial and error process to see how the market responds to their innovations (both from a programming and business model perspective). But that’s what makes it exciting and sexy. So even though the vast majority of revenues still come from traditional media, the press and the attention that digital garners is already massive and will continue to grow (and eventually the model will evolve and the revenues will catch up — i.e. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu).

Are Netflix/Amazon — and other, similar platforms — considered more as TV or more as digital? Does it matter?

To consumers, the platform doesn’t matter. It’s about quality content that you can get how you want, when you want, and as fast as possible. If I had to answer the question as to whether Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are more like digital or TV, I would say TV purely because of the high budgets. Bottom line is, if you have quality programming with top talent, top executive producers, and top budgets, people will come.

Give us a bold prediction for 2015.

We are going to see a surge in the US audience’s demand and acceptance of non-English speaking dramas. This is a result of the trend started by shows like “The Killing,” “The Returned,” “Dicte,” “Prisoners of War,” etc.

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