Bespoke offer key to boosting factual productions

Brighton-based Orange Smarty has established itself as one of the UK’s true boutique factual programming distributors since its launch in 2013. Founder Karen Young has worked in international programmes sales for 25 years, holding the experience necessary to run a TV sales house that focuses on providing producers with a service they can’t get from some of the bigger firms on the market.

According to last year’s Broadcast Distributors Survey, the company turned over £3.68m in 2018-19 – its 22% year-on-year revenue growth making it one of the fastest-growing distributors on the market.

Perhaps its most well-known title in 1,200-hour catalogue is Freeform Productions’ A Place in the Sun, but the company has also forged a reputation for selling factual programming from right across the genre’s gamut.

“When I initially set up the company, I stuck with what I know – factual content – and we now push the message we are a factual specialist,” says Young. “With the way the market has evolved it’s important to push that we are specialists, not just factual distributors.”

Orange Smarty tends to hire staff with significant market experience and every sales rep is expected to have watched at least some of every title in the catalogue – a key part of the bespoke service Young wants the company to provide.

This mitigates the natural scepticism she has observed many producers can feel towards distributors. “Distributors can look like hyenas but actually they work incredibly hard and have a huge amount of knowledge about the international market, while maintaining a huge number of relationships,” she says.

Proving this involves a personal service – meaning no late payments, giving clients full access to content plans around each show and ensuring producers don’t feel isolated from their programmes by providing regular updates and constant communication. “We are more collaborative than arm’s length,” says Young.

With the Covid-19 lockdown still upsetting the international distribution business, Young has doubled down on relationship building, helping producers build an international approach into their latest projects.

With Channel 4 no longer taking international revenues from their commissions and other broadcasters relaxing their back-end revenue demands to ensure better British VoD rights, Young says it is even more important than ever for producers to speak with distributors about how their shows can make money beyond the UK.


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