In Canada, where the thirst for content is truly unquenchable, independent distributors play a key role.
Take The Handmaid's Tale, set to return for a second season in April. Here was a Hulu original shot in and around Toronto and based on a cherished novel by revered Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
When the series was shopped around at MIPCOM in October of 2016, Chris Ottinger--president, Worldwide Television Sales and Acquisitions, MGM Studios--had no doubt he'd have strong interest from Canadian broadcasters. Surprisingly, however, a deal took several months to close.
In the words of one Canadian network executive, "times have changed." Network buyers must now face competition from counterparts both foreign and domestic, as well as from streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix.
For Mike Cosentino, president of Content and Programming for Bell Media's suite of broadcast and specialty channels, the challenge today in acquisitions is not just fending off rival buyers, but also finding the best fit for a series among a growing stable of options. At Bell, The Handmaid's Tale found the perfect home on its Canadian specialty network Bravo, as well as streaming service, CraveTV.
"I described it internally as a turnaround show at Bravo," said Cosentino, who resisted internal calls to place it on the main CTV network. "That show was the first brick in the new foundation of Bravo's schedule."
It didn't hurt, of course, that The Handmaid's Tale went on to win the coveted Outstanding Drama Series prize at the Emmy Awards, a distinction that helped spike subscriptions for CraveTV.
Little wonder then that Cosentino and others in Canada--including rival private media companies Corus Entertainment and Rogers Media, as well as public broadcaster CBC--are increasingly looking at independent distributors to provide the next jolt to their schedules, seemingly with the message, "Canada is closer than you think."
And they're not just looking south of the border. Bell Media recently licensed Hard Sun, a preapocalyptic crime series set in contemporary London, scheduled to launch early this year on Bravo, and eventually CraveTV. The six-episode series, written by Luther creator Neil Cross, stars Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) and Agyness Deyn (Sunset Song) as police partners who stumble on a terrible secret--that the world is facing certain destruction within the next five years.
Hard Sun is produced by Euston Films and distributed by FremantleMedia...