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Report – Distribution – What’s Next?

Posted on: Thursday 05 July 2018 12:35am by Louise Lynch

The lively panel was comprised of Josh Scherba, DHX Media – a super producer/distributor/broadcaster behind online streaming service Wildbrain, Dominic Gardiner, Jetpack Distribution – a service-focused boutique distributor,  Colin Williams, Sixteen South – a large animation studio with ambitions to have their shows seen by every child in every home in every country and Nigel Pickard, TRX – a trading platform for programme buyers and sellers. Nigel advises “think eBay but more sophisticated”.

Takeaway:

  • Kids distribution has always been tough.
  • Distribution is a thing of the future, not the past.
  • Only five years ago, US was controlled by Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

Detail:

The chair, PACT’s John McVay, kicked off by asking if the kids distribution business is more risky nowadays. Kids TV veteran Nigel mused that it has always been tough. Dominic was more optimistic, “the future looks less risky for distributors” having founded his company in lean times and built a business ready to grow when the market improves.

Going forward Dominic is considering a model to help his producers by financing their future shows. As Nigel pointed out, it’s a long-term relationship for the producer “you’re in it for life if you get seed money from a distributor”.

Josh cautioned producers to be mindful of the risk in selling content territory-by-territory versus a relatively risk-free deal upfront with a global SVOD partner.

Dominic has found SVODs to be supportive when looking for windowing opportunities, however the rights position is getting more demanding. “Now the 2 year holdbacks are ending, who will share with who is also emerging. Everybody’s position is changing”.

So is going direct to the consumer the answer?

Wildbrain was a distributor experiment that turned into a viable business for Josh. Eighteen months after getting their first cheque from YouTube they decided to spin it off into a London-based bureau, now with 80 employees in London and its own culture.

Dominic thinks a direct to consumer model is not viable unless you work with an aggregator, which effectively means “getting into bed with Google and giving them 45%”.

Nigel pointed out that rights management is so difficult and time consuming these days, most producers need a distributor, “distributors are a thing of the future not the past because this is a very difficult business”.

Wrapping up on a positive note, John asked the panel for reasons to be cheerful. Aside from the sunny weather (Colin) and England’s match on Saturday (Dominic), Josh reminded the session “only five years ago the US market was controlled by Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon so Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Hulu, etc have been a godsend for content producers”. At least that’s something to be FAANG-ful for….

Louise Lynch

About the author

Louise Lynch

Libra Television, Managing Director

Louise co-founded MediaCityUK-based children’s and learning indie Libra Television in 1999 and has devised, developed, produced and exec produced the company’s content for Discovery Kids, Channel 4 Learning, CiTV, Teachers TV, Five Milkshake and BBC Learning.  Libra has received industry awards and nominations from BAFTA Kids, Royal Television Society North… Read more

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