It’s been a turbulent 12 months for Red Arrow Studios.

Parent company ProSiebenSat.1 explored a sale of the production and distribution group before cancelling the process in March as the coronavirus crisis escalated.

Subsequent months have seen a number of high level departures. Chief executive James Baker is stepping down at the end of 2020, after almost a decade with the company, alongside group creative director Nina Etspüler who will exit in 2021 after seven years. Red Arrow Studios International’s president Bo Stehmeier also left, to be replaced by Joel Denton.

Announcing the cancellation of the sale process, ProSiebenSat.1 insisted it “strongly believes” in the business. “We are all in, and will remain so.”

Certainly, Red Arrow has had a good run recently. The company comprises 20 production labels in seven territories. These include US producers Kinetic Content, which has enjoyed huge success with Netflix hit Love is Blind; Left/Right, the maker of Showtime’s The Circus; and Fabrik Entertainment, producer of long-running Amazon crime drama Bosch.

Red Arrow’s UK labels include Vienna Blood producer Endor Productions and CPL Productions, responsible for hit unscripted shows Old People’s Home For Four-Year-Olds and A League of their Own. Meanwhile, Danish label Snowman is behind social experiment format Married at First Sight, which has been adapted in more than 30 countries.

Distribution arm Red Arrow Studios International represents content from these production companies, as well as from ProSiebenSat.1, and also invests in and picks up third party content such as House Rules from Australia’s Seven Productions, and conspiracy thriller Departure from Canadian powerhouse Shaftesbury.

Tim Gerhartz, senior vice-president of global sales at Red Arrow Studios International, says the coronavirus pandemic has led to a number of delays for productions, but no cancellations. In scripted, for example, the second seasons of Vienna Blood and Departure are both now shooting.

Gerhartz also says demand for scripted is picking up. “The market is now waking up,” citing the growth in ad revenues for commercial broadcasters. “The funders…are back at the table.”

The formats business, he says, was the “first to slow down, but equally the first to pick up again.” Gerhartz notes that the company has also secured new commissions during the lockdown period, citing new gameshow format Block Out, created by Nippon TV and Red Arrow Studios, which has won orders from broadcasters in Spain and The Netherlands.

He says there’s demand for “studio-based game shows, which from a production point of view you can control and you can afford.” Reality also remains in high demand. But buyers aren’t just after competitive reality shows – they want shows with purpose, or that are fun and entertaining. Gerhartz ties this into an overall demand for feel good television across all genres, from movies and TV dramas through to formats.

Gerhartz picks out another business trend: the desire for many broadcasters to “expand” successful brands, either through spin-offs or add on material. For example, US broadcaster has acquired the Australian version of Married at First Sight to add to its own local version of the show. So too has the UK’s Channel 4, which has also acquired the Australian tape version for E4.

“Commissioners are looking to next year, asking ‘How can we do more of what works already?’” says Gerhartz. “The market is more risk averse than ever.”

Despite the challenges caused by coronavirus, he remains optimistic for the long term outlook of the industry “This is still a growth business with additional players and spending coming into the market.”


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