This session asked whether British content is still a market leader across the world and whether its funding models and strategies need to adapt to changing conditions.
Andrea Wong, president, international productions at Sony Pictures Television, was bullish: “The TV market is growing, there is an increase in the global travel of formats, and there is an increase in co-productions.”
BBC Worldwide CEO Tim Davie partly agreed: “We can grow a much bigger business – but there is jeopardy, too. I tend more towards [seeing a] transformation of TV due to of technological advances. IPTV is largely nascent. Even if you tend towards a more evolutionary story [for TV], the rewiring of the supply chain – like the music industry – means we can’t sit still.”
Phil Georgiadis, chairman of Walker Media, pointed out that marketing needs to be local. “There are very, very few global marketing campaigns,” he said. “Brands are built market by market.”
Nutopia CEO Jane Root said that as more and more content becomes available, she expects to see much more binge TV watching.
“Well, that is a good thing,” said Wong. “They will watch more hours of TV a day.”
Pact CEO McVay asked the panellists what needed to be done to make headway in the Chinese market.
Davie said that while BBC Worldwide had made “really good efforts there”, UK exporters need to work together to achieve more. “China-UK trade relations have not been as good as they could have been, but that is changing now,” he said, adding that UK companies “need better people on the ground. We need to get closer to the texture of the culture.”
Wong shared his view. “The [Chinese] government is very challenging -- they have circled the wagons. Frankly, we make pennies there at the moment. It is a long-term investment,” she said.
She particularly warned against trying to sell drama projects in China: “You have to put the money upfront and there are choke-points where people can say no very near the end.”
Bringing the discussion back to the UK, Georgiadis warned that “Contract Rights Renewal is the corrupting influence on the market. There has been massive consolidation of media-buying power across the world and there is now a major question about whether media buyers are going to become media rights owners.”
He added: “The old model of an agent working for an individual advertiser has broken down. Money is not flowing towards rewarding quality content.”
When the audience was asked what threat globalisation poses to investment in UK production, encouragingly exactly half said no threat at all.
The session was chaired by Faisal Islam of Channel 4 News and produced by Ollie King with Helene Cacace.
Report by Gordon Jamieson. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian.