TV producers suggest pivot to indie filmmaking model for financing

The prestige drama bubble has burst

By Gabriella Geisinger 18 Apr 2023

TV producers suggest pivot to indie filmmaking model for financing
Rings of Power; Cr: Amazon

At Cannes' MIPTV international television market, high profile TV producers commented on the rising costs of prestige dramas while sources of financing dwindle. 

Christian Baute of Headline Pictures, producers of Amazon Prime’s Man in the High Castle said: “The cost of an hour of television drama in the U.K. has gone from £1.5 million ($1.86 million) to £2.5 million ($3.1 million) per hour, and you can’t finance that out of the U.K. market.

"Traditionally, over the last seven years, we went to America [for financing], but that money is ebbing [because] the American market is a mess.” (via THR.)

Diego Ramirez Schrempp of Columbia’s Dynamo, a producer on Netflix’s Narcos added: “Streamers still have the same demand for the same amount of content. [But] the bigger budgets are going to fewer projects, so we have to figure out how to co-finance and co-develop the rest. That’s a real change.”

One solution put forward by David Flynn of the independent production group WiiP, one of the producers of HBO’s Mare of Easttown, was to look to the independent film business for inspiration. Namely, not relying on a single global streamer or broadcaster for full financing. Instead, he said, “[by] getting an anchor tenant in a local network or broadcaster than partner that with equity and [international] sales. The same way we do movies.”

On the suggestion, Baute noted: “The challenge within the TV space [for this model] is that the TV sales market hasn’t quite adapted the way the film sales market has where you have film festivals where actors and directors come and meet with buyers. 

"But I think that will be the evolution of the sales business because, ultimately, there’ll be a lot more independently financed shows, and they will need to have a place to sell them.”

“Seven years ago, you’d pitch an idea with a piece of IP and it would get optioned to a broadcaster or streamer, who would then finance the first episode script,” Baute said. “That time is really over. You need a lot more than a treatment now. You need to have deep pockets to develop and to find the right partners to develop with. You need everything in order to have all the options open and to retain rights.”

However, the creativity and resillience of the industry has made these producers optimistic. Flynn said: But Flynn did see opportunity in the current market for the most creative independent producers.

“I think over the next period of time, smart producers will make shows for less money which will become very successful, which will then ignite [the industry] in the same way we’ve seen in film, where the Sundance festival was this big driver within the business, in launching new talent, talent, in figuring out how to get movies made for less money, and therefore giving the talent more creative control. I think a similar thing will happen in the TV space.”

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