Many moons ago, my client, Agogo of Hong Kong, had me out stumping television acquisition executives to sell their massive library. At the same time I was helping them pitch original content to development executives at networks, co-production partners and to distributors. I had to learn quickly the difference between Acquisition, Distribution and Development (A.D.D., a term I just coined, copyrighted, protected and will fight for the right to call my own. OK, I guess I am taking Intellectual Property rights a bit too seriously here).
I’ve covered the rudimentary parts of development in this blog, where someone has a great idea and sells it lock, stock and barrel to the network. Now it’s time to look at the other ways of getting brilliant content in front of audiences. Distribution is the heart’s blood of any production. If you have a Letter of Intent (LOI) or a pre-sale from a broadcaster in almost any part of the western world you have a winner in the eyes of co-producers and financers. This means that your idea is not just looking great in the pitch bible, but someone likes it, a broadcaster or network REALLY likes it. This doesn’t mean that you will get any money from the broadcaster to make your show. It does means if one net likes it, the probability of other nets liking are high and the gamble is lower for the investors.
But how does your IP get in front of a network. If you are lucky, like some the heroes mentioned here, you will get a direct in to the executive office and sell your IP outright. But most of us don’t always have that kind of access. So, we scourer MIPCOM, NATPE and KidScreen Summit for possible distribution partners who can do the deed.
There are variations in distribution partners. There are those studios that have had success in creating, producing and placing their own shows, and have turned their business model to include partnering with other creators and distributing these shows. Then there are the distributors that are out there selling content to broadcasters and regional distributors, who then will sell the content to their broadcasters. Then there is the distributor that also sees the voids in what they are selling and decide to produce content to fill the market need. Why didn’t I include acquisition in these definitions? Because it is a different animal. .
Acquisition is the title that is mostly held at networks, broadcasters and other “displaying” media (i.e. internet, portals, cable companies and even distributors). The job of acquisition executives is to find that next great show, series or movie for their network. Their goal is to find something that is already produced, in the can, finished and ready to air. This means the creator has already put out the money to get the show made. We see a lot of this activity in live action indie films, where an up and coming rogue filmmaker will take the chance, make the movie on his/her credit cards and then get it into festivals with the hopes that distributors will “acquire” it. The beauty of acquisition is the creator keeps all the rights. The networks are just paying a licensing fee (just like renting a movie from Blockbuster) and airing it. Those that succeed at acquisition are those producers who already have a track record or the content is based on a well known, branded property based on a toy, book, game, doll or even a movie.
This is tough to do in animation as a first time for acquisition, since the process is long, expensive and the kid’s market (which is lucrative) does not generate the revenue in just it’s showings like a prime time live action show. A children’s animated series has the greater potential, in the long run, to generate income from the merchandising and licensing as the brand builds. Adult animation is dependent on getting revenues mostly from the broadcasting fees and some merchandising, depending on the content.
So what about the distribution labyrinth?