Jason Simms, director of global acquisitions, Fox International Channels
How are this year’s screenings different?
Understandably, last year was a very strange experience for everyone – shorter screenings in general, and in some cases, no actual screenings at all, just presentations of upcoming shows. It’s taken a while for series from last year to find homes on international channels, and there are still pockets of availability in various markets, which would have been very unusual two or three years ago, when there was a real rush to acquire straight after the Screenings. I think the sluggishness on last years’ slate was initially due to caution on the part of buyers waiting to see what strike-affected shows would survive in the US, but the recession will undoubtedly continue that trend for ‘wait and see’ buying for a while yet.
Did the fact the networks have been announcing pick-ups earlier this year make life easier?
It doesn’t really change things too much. Maybe it allows you to focus on a shopping list a little earlier.
How useful/important are the Screenings to you compared to other markets?
The core schedules of our various Fox channel brands around the world are built on US drama and comedy, so the Screenings are a very important fixture in the business calendar for us. MIP and MIPCOM are also very useful but in a different way – they’re important markets for relationship building and continuing discussions on deals, but a lot of those conversations in Cannes stem from what’s seen and decided whilst in LA.
Typically, how do US acquisitions fare on your channel(s)?
Extremely well – our channels are built around bringing the best US acquisitions to international audiences, through engaging and innovative brands.
What has worked particularly well?
That’s a tough question to answer in a couple of sentences as it really depends on which channel you’re talking about – we have a diverse selection of brands playing out around the world. I guess the common thread amongst them is that they’re all open to mixing the best in edgier content from US premium pay networks alongside more mainstream fare from US cable networks and the terrestrials, to present the best line-up of US led content. You could easily find a Fox branded channel somewhere in the world running shows like Mad Men and Californication in the same schedule as series like Burn Notice or Bones.
What have you been particularly keen to see this time?
I’m always interested to see what new comedies will be on offer each year. Finding the next Friends or Frasier seems to be a perennially tough nut for US networks to crack, and it’s been a shame to see what (seemed to be) some initially promising pilots fall away over the years. There at least seems to be another healthy offering of comedy pilots to try again with this year.