Beta eyes global supply as foreign drama booms

The breadth of German producer-distributor Beta Film’s catalogue has allowed it to have a relatively untroubled 2020. With the independent outfit routinely bringing between 500 and 800 hours of new content to the market, the global production lockdown could have had a major knock-on effect to its pipeline.

Managing director Moritz von Kruedener, acknowledges therefore, the fortune that “100% of the content we were planning for 2020 will be” delivered.

From a pure sales perspective, there has – so far – been “no negative impact” with opportunities emerging even in territories which would have been quieter in any other year.

“Our sales are definitely in line with what we expected. There are some shifts between the territories, some are stronger others are having a harder time,” he says. “Countries like the US and those in Latin America, they would depend on major studios output and so they’re harder beaten by the coronavirus effect. There has been increasing demand for non-American content, an interesting development because you can increase short-term sales to the country.”

Additionally, the US has been opening up “more to non-US and non-UK product, foreign-language programming”, accelerating a trend instigated by international streamers. While the sale of high-profile Italian crime title Gomorrah to HBO Max is unsurprising given the strength of the Sky brand, von Kruedener cites the increased interest in less-known titles.

“We’re selling European product from all kinds of sources. These programmes have been given a big push,” von Kruedener says. “It’s a shift in what they’re willing to try over there. I’m not speaking about big brands. It shows people that European production quality and standards are more than comparable with English content.”

Elsewhere, the Beta team has been delving into its more than 20,000 -hour catalogue to promote kids and family programming and “feel-good” nostalgic European classics, which spiked over the lockdown period.

Given Beta’s active production interests, the priority is to ensure that the projects that had been postponed or pushed back by the lockdown are kept on track in a safe way. The additional costs associated with safety protocols are proving a headache and there is a feeling from Beta that “not enough” are being covered by the commissioning broadcasters. “Some producers are left with a high proportion of costs and risks”, von Kruedener explains.

It means that Beta is keeping tabs on suppliers in countries where production is moving along, such as Russia, and on projects which are perhaps of more modest budget.

This global approach to securing content for its catalogue is Beta safeguarding itself from any long-term downturns in more established markets, the exec says.

“There will be a moment in many markets when production will be reduced in terms of total numbers [of projects],” von Kruedener adds. “It’s important to source programmes from around the world. We might still get sufficient interest for sales, in these times.

“Also, if the budgets of the channels go down, especially FTA channels, that’s another question to consider. We expect a polarised situation: fewer high-budget events and an increasing demand for more moderate budget productions.”

With global SVoD platforms such as HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu ramping up demand alongside local players, premium programming orders will remain, von Kruedener predicts and will “hopefully compensate the potential downfall of free TV business”.

“We’re optimistic. There will be a short decrease on traditional TV side, but not on a long-term basis,” he concludes.

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