A recent report by U.K.-based Essential Television Statistics, Madigan Cluff and Digital TV Research stated that between 2008 and 2012 the value of sales of scripted series in Europe fell by 16 percent. But whether this is actually bad news for sellers gathering on the Croisette this week depends on where you look and what you're selling.
The past few years have seen content license fees on something of a rollercoaster. But most of the buyers and sellers VideoAge spoke with agreed that, for now at least, the ride is over and prices are remaining stable. Of course, as with any rule, there are exceptions.
From London, Don Taffner Jr., chairman of DLT Raydar, recalled that, "five or six years ago in the U.K. there was an explosion in the secondary rights market for top U.S. shows, which probably reached its peak when Comedy Central bought Friends, reportedly paying [pounds sterling]100,000 (U.S.$153,000) per episode," but he now believes, "activity has leveled off." This comment was supported by Sasha Breslau, head of Acquired Series at the U.K.'s largest commercial broadcaster, ITV: "there has been no change in our acquisition budget, but still we remain competitive. Of course we can't compete with what Sky will pay," she said. "Our prices are competitive with other U.K. FTA channels."
Taffner added two caveats to the vision of stability, both of which he believes hold true around the world and not just in the U.K. The first caveat is, "the increasing tendency of studios to own outlets, which then of course buy from the studio, and act as a drag on the upward movement of prices." But, on a more positive note Taffner also said that, "the prices for major live events, especially major sports events, have gone through the roof." Although he added, "in many ways this is just a reflection of a trend that has been well established for at least 15 years, which has seen the cost of 'must have' content go up and up, while prices for everything else have either stagnated or fallen."
Pedro Lascurain, who buys programs for TV Azteca in Mexico, sees program costs continue on their upward track. "Prices are always going up regardless of a recession or a devaluation in our country. The average is about five percent every year on almost every product we buy from the U.S. In other countries, since we do not need to buy many programs, it is more likely to negotiate a better price," he said.
A buyer from Brazil, who asked to...