How Co-Productions Are Changing Scripted TV

by Cate Lecuyer Marian  |  05.19.2017

If drama were a patient in a hospital, it would be in need of some psychological help, joked Entertainment One CEO John Morayniss at C21’s Drama Summit West conference in Los Angeles on Friday.

“The art and commerce of our business has never been more unpredictable,” he said. “It’s interesting, but it’s also challenging.”

He, along with BBC Worldwide Productions Head of Scripted Matt Loze and WME Global Television agent Lorenzo De Maio, tackled where scripted television is headed as many networks wrap up their annual upfront presentations.

“We’re going obviously through a renaissance right now,” Morayniss said. “The models are changing dramatically and the bar keeps going up and up in terms of quality.”

And that’s due in part to the rise in co-productions.

“Everyone is interested in partnerships, because they’re worried about risk,” Morayniss said.

While collaborating on projects allows individual companies to take less of a financial hit if they’re unsuccessful, it’s also leading to bigger budgets and better shows. And these large-scale international co-productions are inciting viewers to become more open to global points of views.

“U.S. audiences have always been open to it, but Netflix has shown that the opportunity exists where you can create something with specificity to it,” Morayniss said.

Americans remain the largest and most valuable audience for television. As Morayniss puts it, “If you don’t have a strategy to get it sold in the U.S. marketplace, you fail.” So, this cultural embrace of international stories means more networks have been willing to take risks on niche content.

International co-productions are also drawing global talent such as renowned filmmakers and writers to scripted television, which is driving another trend.

“The deals are changing so much because we’re all noticing the fact that creators want more control of their shows,” De Maio said.

And digital properties such as Apple TV and Facebook have entered the scene with platforms that allow creators to distribute content straight to audiences, rather than going through a rigorous production process.

“That barrier to entry is collapsing,” De Maio said. Networks need to empower creators to develop the best content possible, he said.

The rise of digital is also sparking successful smaller projects, like short-form productions, digital series and the ability to experiment with different types of content. For instance, podcasts can be a great way to test out an idea, De Maio said. With so many options, the plethora of content continues to grow.

“We’re all suffering from the strain of not being able to watch what’s out,” Loze said. But it’s a good problem to have.

“I’ve never been more excited,” De Maio said, “about what’s on TV.”

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