MIPCOM13: Collaboration in a global TV industry key to success, argue execs

TV execs including MGM Studios' Roma Khanna and No Equal's J.B. Sugar discuss the growing trend of international financing for scripted dramas.

They’re calling it the golden age of TV at MIPCOM this week, with blockbuster series like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones endlessly tripping off tongues during conversations and deal-making on the Croisette.

But it’s not just trust in showrunners able to take audiences on surprising journeys that’s driving the seeming explosion in the number of scripted dramas and the platforms they show up on these days.

It’s collaboration in an increasing global TV industry to secure precious financing and audiences that’s also getting series to market.

That’s the word from Cannes where Canadian, American and other international TV makers are looking to sell their wares and partner up on future series.

Just as U.S. series can no longer rely on a Hollywood studio bankrolling the cost of production before the cameras roll, Canadian producers on the Croisette are increasingly looking to complete a patchwork of international financing with overseas partners, on top of tax credits and funding available back home, before work starts on their new shows.

“So much about making shows at any level is ensuring they have the right amount of money,” Temple Street Productions co-president Ivan Schneeberg told Playback as he shops Killjoys, an upcoming sci-fi series for Bell Media’s Space channel, at MIPCOM.

Elsewhere in Cannes this week, Lionsgate, Sea to Sky Entertainment and German partner Tandem Communications are shopping a crime drama they have in development, Sex, Lies and Handwriting.

The coventure is aiming to follow a straight-to-series model similar to Crossing Lines, which did modest numbers for NBC in the U.S. market, but got a renewal based on strong audience numbers for key European markets like Germany and France.

Sex, Lies and Handwriting, with its irresistible lead character, is the perfect series to start this collaboration with Lionsgate,” Rola Bauer, president and partner at Tandem Communications, said when the partnership was first announced in August.

Sex, Lies and Handwriting is set to go into production in early 2014, and be shopped for sale at MIPCOM 2014.

Elsewhere, J. B. Sugar of No Equal Entertainment came to Cannes this week with a U.S. sale of Bitten to Syfy in hand, as he drums up additional foreign sales ahead of an early 2014 debut for the female werewolf drama on Space.

“The fact that we have an American sale will propel [Bitten] into another realm,” Sugar said.

Even the major Hollywood studios are world-facing, as they look to collaborate as never before.

“We’re open as a company. We’re open as a team, internally and externally,” said former Canadian ChumTelevision exec Roma Khanna, and now president of the television group and digital at MGM Studios.

“Everything is collaboration and team-based,” she added.

MGM Studios’ first scripted TV drama under Khanna was Vikings, the Canadian-Irish coproduction that has performed well on History in the U.S., on Showcase in Canada and elsewhere internationally.

The period drama from writer/creator Michael Hirst of The Tudors and Elizabeth TV and film adaptation fame is a coproduction between Toronto-based Take 5 Productions and U.K. partner World 2000.

Khanna said the MGM Studios, no longer a major studio doing things its own way, is striking a balance between outside and international collaborators and retaining where possible programming rights.