Film Market shifts toward TV business

Feb 17, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Going into its annual run in Santa Monica, Calif., the American Film Market-once the province of film distributors looking for theatrical release or video sale-has shifted significantly into the television business.
Total revenues generated at the market by the television side of the business-highlighted by companies such as HBO, Hearst, FremantleMedia and Porchlight-have risen from 16 percent in 1994 to almost 50 percent today. That’s the result of film distributors searching for new revenue streams to stay afloat, major TV producers seeking a back-end value for their telefilms and bigger companies looking to capitalize on the growing legionof international buyers.
In recent years, cross-platforming, technology and the global economy have changed the nature of the market, which runs from Feb. 19 to 26.
Michael Weiser, chairman of the television committee of the American Film Market Association and president and CEO of Modern Entertainment, notes that more companies are realizing the benefits of cashing in on newer revenue streams.
“The television side of the AFMA revenue stream has become very important to our organization,” Mr. Weiser said. “The independents are getting hammered out there, and we provide a great fraternity to share what’s going on in the marketplace,as well as services such as collections and arbitration for them.”
He noted that revenues from worldwide television sales of movies, documentaries and so forth now exceed $800 million for members of the organization.
According to Jon Kramer, president of Promark Entertainment, producers were forced to turn to television as the video business matured and the needs of the world market changed. For him, the market offers something that MIP and MIPCOM don’t: a narrow theme. There is not a lot of pure television product for sale.
“AFM is focused on the feature film area, while MIP and MIPCOM are much broader markets,” he said.
Still, with talent costs rising, a lack of local broadcaster support and economic problems depressing the value of deals made in important territories like Germany, Japan and France, a lot of work remains for the independent producer.
“For broadcasters around the world, their playtime is filled with their own product, studio movies and reality programming,” said Mr. Kramer, who is selling action and kid’s movies as well as “Eyewitness” with Jeff Daniels and James Spader at the market. “We need to send the message that things need to change or there will be even fewer of us left.”
One thing in their favor will be the number of domestic cable executives seeking product. All major networks will have buyers roaming the suites.