International buyers at UKTI and Indielab’s Meet the International Broadcasters event last week were searching for crime, health and fixed-rig programming - with backing from the likes of Netflix now seen as an added opportunity.


During a panel session, sponsored by business growth accelerator programme Indielab, an array of broadcasters and distributors revealed their wish lists.

Canadian network Zoomer Media’s vice president of TV Beverley Shenken said that UK drama and well-being programming “aimed at longevity” were popular with her discerning baby-boomer audiences.

The four-channel network’s main offering, Vision TV, is currently broadcasting Downton Abbey, Poldark and Doc Martin, while Shenken also highlighted the success of factual one-offs Fab Fashionistas – Well Park Production’s film about female octogenarians [pictured] - and RDF’s 100 Year Old drivers.

Shenken added that the Canadian multichannel broadcaster, which is available in 9m homes, was now after “more of the same” with emphasis on the its factual slate.

“That’s how we provide value – more factual stuff – anything to do with health and well-being is particularly of interest to us,” she said.

NordicWorld - the distributor owned by Scandinavian broadcasters including TV4 Sweden and TV2 Norway – is hunting more finished programming and formats from the UK.

NordicWorld’s vice president of acquisitions Ann Christen Siljan Scandi said she was also looking to deficit fund content. “We want to invest in more English-speaking programming at an earlier stage because finished tapes are easier to sell than Scandinavian ones,” she said.

Siljan said that her company was also on the hunt for British comedies - “because UK humour translates well” - documentaries and moderately successful formats “which still have a chance to grow”.

German distributor ZDF Enterprises is also currently seeking to expand its English-speaking portfolio, following first-look deals that it inked in March with Talking To The Dead producer Bonafide Films and Kidnap and Ransom creator Projector Pictures.

Around 70% of ZDF’s scripted programming is crime, according to its co-production representative Tasja Abel, and with shows like The Fall performing particularly well among German audiences – the broadcaster is on the look out for more.

“The UK has a fantastic talent pool of writers,” said Abel. “We don’t have anything specific we are looking for other than originality, good character and story as well as great talent attached.”

Zodiak Rights head of factual Emily Elisha advised producers to begin conversations with distributors at an early stage – particularly around scripted programming. “It’s an increasingly competitive world because there are now far fewer projects with rights attached,” she said.

Elisha added that Zodiak Rights can also help producers by offering them an early valuation of their international rights. She suggested producers should consider seeking additional finance from distributors before signing all their rights away to broadcasters. 

“We’re seeing a big shift in terms of rights positioning of channels right now – especially in the US market,” she said. “Getting finance through a distributor may allow you to hold onto your valuable IP. “

Digital opportunity

Both Zoomer and ZDF encouraged UK producers to seek finance and first-look deals from emerging SVoD players such as Amazon and Netflix which have shown a willingness to invest in financing quality niche productions.

“Globally, Netflix is hiring execs to the position of directors of acquisitions,” said Shenken. ”They are putting boots on the ground in a lot of territories and looking for niche productions. Sell to them. I’ll still acquire your show – I’m happy to buy it later.”

Abel added: “It’s interesting to watch how things have changed since Netflix. What is the value of a hold back? How do you define the windows? One model we’re seeing emerge is that Netflix helps shows get financed and then linear broadcasters are happy to take the second window for good shows.”