When factual indie Woodcut Media launched a distribution division in October 2020, the move was assumed to have been conceived during the pandemic. But establishing Woodcut International had long been in the pipeline because of shifting trends at UK broadcasters, according to Woodcut chief executive Kate Beal.
“Toward the end of 2019, we were noticing a problem within the industry and the way we were getting greenlights,” she says. “Broadcaster budgets were coming down and we had several shows at greenlight position that we couldn’t get fully financed.”
To combat, Beal proposed the idea of a boutique distributor which ultimately became part of Woodcut’s future strategy as the first wave of the Coronavirus crisis subsided.
Woodcut International is led by the indie’s director of business development Koulla Anastasi, with support from owner Anthology Group's chief operating officer Polly Benton, and has more than 100 hours of true crime, specialist factual, premium factual and factual entertainment from the producer’s slate, including Sky Crime’s first commission The Beverley Allitt Tapes and Surviving a Serial Killer, made for More4.
Beal says the sales arm gave her indie an extra weapon when talking to broadcasters about commissions, removing the necessity of finding a third-party distributor to help with budget.
“We can bring financing to the table,” she explains. “It makes conversations easier, especially in a time of crisis, when we can say to broadcasters that we can get projects to a greenlit stage from a finance perspective.”
The collapse of Kew Media Distribution also resulted in Woodcut taking back rights to several of its programmes – including Idris Elba-fronted titles Cut From a Different Cloth (Netflix) and Discovery single Mandela, My Dad and Me – further boosting its catalogue.
While the library currently comprises Woodcut Media productions, Beal says it will look to grow with series produced by third-party producers that “mirrors and complements” the factual content in which it specialises – but the ambition is not to be “the next massive super-distributor”.
“We are starting to speak with third-party producers on select projects but we’re very much that boutique service,” she adds. “We are considering projects on a case-by-case basis but are not on a spending spree. It’s going to be baby steps.”
Looking back on the timing of Woodcut International’s launch, Beal recalls: “We were brave in setting up when we did but we were also fortunate because we entered a market where there was a need for content due to the supply not being as strong as it had been.
“While I don’t think there has been a distribution gold rush, as was predicted, there has been an upturn in finished tape sales and we’re ahead of target.”