The history of Beyond Rights is short, since it launched only this year, but no less storied. The company is the product of an amalgamation of Australian firm Beyond International’s (BYI) two distribution operations – Beyond Distribution and TCB Media Rights.
BYI had only acquired TCB in April following the collapse of the factual sales house’s parent Kew Media at the beginning of the year. Beyond Rights itself is not quite six months old, and the fast-moving changes are not lost on inaugural chief executive Kate Llewellyn-Jones.
Llewellyn-Jones, herself a former TCB exec, had taken the reins of a company in the middle of the first national lockdown, and is still in the process of integrating the two businesses.
“It’s pretty unusual circumstances to start a job in lockdown and to merge a business in lockdown. In a pandemic I think you have to go in with an open mind. But I'm really pleased to say that actually it has gone very smoothly,” she says, “and we’ve been able to navigate that very well.”
She says the pandemic has provided a crucial moment of introspection, posing internal questions about the best way to create a sales house that will generate £22m-plus revenues in the 2020-21 financial year – which was the stipulated desire of BYI chief executive Mikael Borglund, when Broadcast revealed the merger of the companies.
The combined company has a catalogue of more than 7,500 hours and has integrated the two teams with “incredibly difficult” redundancies, according to Llewellyn-Jones. The rejig, which saw ex-TCB exec Simona Argenti made head of sales, resulted in the exit of Beyond Distribution’s head of sales Munia Kanna-Konsek; Marzenna Czubowicz, senior vice-president of sales for the UK and Ireland, French-speaking Europe, and Africa; and Anne-Marie Pardoe senior vice-president of sales for German-speaking Europe, Scandinavia, and Iberia. From TCB, Hannah Demidowicz, commissioning editor in charge of its original productions strategy, and senior sales manager Holly Newey also departed.
While TCB’s Jimmy Humphrey was given the role of head of acquisitions and co-productions, he has since stood down, with ex-Fox sales exec Connie Hodson joining as head of partnerships and business development.
“The decisions were driven very clearly by the market and the needs of the business, namely the strengths that both sides brought to the table,” says Llewellyn-Jones. “And what we’ve been able to do is to bolster the support elements and create whole new departments of support staff, which might normally take a long time to do.
“What we achieved with the merger is scale because we've got a larger catalogue. What we needed to ensure this remains an effective and slick machine is an incredibly efficient support background as well as sales and acquisitions. I would expect that we're in an incredibly strong position to meet those revenue targets.”
Beyond Rights has inherited a very strong unscripted portfolio with both catalogues offering popular titles including adventure series Edges Unknown, from 4East Media, GiUMa Produzioni’s lumberjack-focused ob-doc Undercut: Wooden Treasure, Like a Shot Entertainment’s popular science returner Abandoned Engineering and the showcased series: Pooch Perfect, Beyond Productions’ competition reality format, and Farpoint Films’ ice fishing ob doc, Ice Vikings.
However, there is an intent to grow the scripted portfolio via BYI’s in-house production units, and existing series Halifax: Retribution is one such title gaining international traction, having recently sold to PBS’s Amazon Prime Video channel PBS Masterpiece.
“Halifax is gaining huge ratings in Australia and scripted is a key part of our offering. Internally, there is scripted business and clearly we want to work from them, but equally we’re very much interested in that from a third-party perspective as well,” she says.