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Buyers briefing: Karin Heijink, VP, pay TV, Modern Times Group

Buyers Briefing

ViasatUK_Heijink-wIDE

Name: Karin Heijink

Title: VP, pay TV channels, Modern Times Group

Karin Heijink is vice president of pay-TV Channels East for Sweden-listed European broadcaster Modern Times Group. As such she oversees prebuys and acquisitions for a raft of factual, fact-ent and movie channels. She tells TBI about what MTG is looking for from international distributors and recent successes on the channels she oversees.

 

TBI: What channels do you buy for, what are their headline programming needs?

KH: We buy for our portfolio of factual channels and movie channels across the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS and Africa.

For our movie channels, which range from premium first-run channels to thematic library channels we buy a wide range of US studio titles as well as independent European titles. Our movie channels TV1000 and TV1000 Russian Kino are the number one and two pay-TV channels in Russia.

Our factual portfolio consists of four brands that are broadcast in regional feeds. Our greatest reach is in Europe where our factual brands are; Viasat History, Viasat Explore, and Viasat Nature. We also have the real-crime channel Viasat Crime in Africa.

Women-Who-Made-History-KA-LAND

Women Who Made History (ZDF / Tina Luther)

Viasat Explore programmng ranges from the latest scientific breakthroughs to the everyday lives of the engaging characters on our channel that do things just a little bit differently.

Viasat History brings history to life with captivating documentaries that take a fresh, modern look into history.

Our main focus is on European history, revealing the secrets of the past and how it defines us today. Viasat Nature lets nature tell its own story. Presenters, wildlife experts and everyday people, are immersed in their compelling stories, on the ground; up close and personal.

In the Nordics all of our factual channels and an HD channel that shows a mix of Viasat Nature and Viasat History in the Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and CIS. For all these channels we are constantly looking for high-quality factual entertainment that is relevant for our European viewers and has a high level of factual out take.

Movies and some of the factual content is available on online pay-TV service Viaplay available in the Nordics, Russia and Ukraine.

For Viasat Explore we are interested in long-running popular science shows for access primetime, as well as real breakout shows abut cars, engineering or science to schedule in the latter half 2015.

 

TBI: Should producers and distributors be seeking out acquisitions people at a local level or is buying handled centrally?

KH: Our acquisition is managed centrally from our London office, so please speak to our team in London.

I-Bought-My-Own-Rainforest-2

I Bought My Own Rainforest (Hat Trick)

TBI: What is the cycle – are there times of year you are focused on buying and prebuying?

KH: We are constantly looking for good quality and when it comes to pre-buys we work around 12-to-18 months ahead of the premiere date.

For Viasat History for instance we have already secured our tent-pole programmes for 2015, and we are now committing to pre-buys for 2016. For our other channels we are looking for long-running series to strip in prime access and late night next year.

 

TBI: Do you buy and prebuy on a pan-regional basis or is the process country-specific?

KH: For our factual channels we pre-buy and acquire on a pan-regional basis and on average 60% of programmes are exclusive premieres.

We focus on content that is relevant for our European audiences and are always looking for programmes with a local angle and a local story. A good example is Aircrash Detectives, which is a production from Like A Shot that we committed to at an early stage. One episode of this six-part series focuses on the last flight of General Sikorski who died during World War II.

 

TBI: Which studios do you have multiyear deals with – what have been the notable successes from these deals in recent times?

KH: For our premium movie channels in Russia we have output deals with Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, NBCUniversal International Television Distribution and Sony Pictures Television, but we also work with other studios, independent distributors and Russian producers for those channels.

For Viasat Nature we are looking for engaging stories where nature and our planet have the lead role but with a human element. We would also be interested in well-produced shows about extreme weather and natural phenomena like volcanos.

TBI: Do you have long-running deals in placer on the factual side?

KH: For the factual portfolio we do not have any output deals. We acquire content from a large range of producers and distributors and for long running series we have multiyear deals.

Some of the highlights we have had this year are Sin City Motors from Canadian prodco Proper TV, The Salvagemasters from FACT, Timber Kings from Passion and in September we are premiering Inquisition from Like A Shot and I Bought My Own Rainforest from Hat Trick International.

Timber Kings (Passion / Russ McConnell Imagery)

Timber Kings (Passion / Russ McConnell Imagery)

TBI: What are you really looking for at the moment, is there a genre or specific type of programme you have on your ‘shopping list’ or are there particular programming slots you are very focused on?

KH: For Viasat Explore we are interested in long-running popular science shows for access primetime, as well as real breakout shows abut cars, engineering or science to schedule in the latter half of 2015.

For Viasat Nature we are looking for engaging stories where nature and our planet have the lead role but with a human element. We would also be interested in well-produced shows about extreme weather and natural phenomena like volcanos.

For Viasat History we’re looking for European history and we have had some successes with acquisitions from European free-TV broadcasters like Croatian Kings that we bought from HRT.

Even though our factual and movie channels have a significant footprint, we do not broadcast to key territories like the US, UK or large European markets like Germany, Spain or France, so please talk to us at an early stage as we could be a perfect partner to provide some early funding and guarantee a great reach outside of these territories.

TBI: Which of the programming markets do you find the most productive?

KH: MIPCOM is one of the most productive markets for us, just because of the sheer number of attendees. Realscreen is a good market to meet some of the US and Canadian production companies and to discuss longer term projects. We are looking forward to see how Realscreen London will turn out.

 

TBI: What is the single most successful acquired show across your channels?

KH: It is hard to single out one show, different shows play different roles on the channel, some are workhorses that you can rely on to bring in the ratings time and again.

Some good examples of those shows are How it Works, Myth Hunters and Zoo Juniors. Other shows are brand-defining tent pole programmes that create a buzz around the channel and (hopefully) also attract a large audience. Inquisition is one of those shows for us, as is I Bought My Own Rainforest, or World’s Toughest Truckers.

Myth Hunters - The Lost City of El Dorado (TWI / IMG)

Myth Hunters – The Lost City of El Dorado
(TWI / IMG)

TBI: What acquired shows will you launch in the next few weeks/months?

KH: On Viasat Explore it will be Heavy Metal Monsters, the pre-buy Black Ops (series 2) and Selling Big.

For Viasat History the biggest premieres are Ancient Black Ops, Forbidden History (series 2) and Women Who Made History.

On Viasat Nature it will be Inside Nature’s Giants, Micro Monsters, Flying Monsters and I Bought My Own Rain Forest. On our TV1000 movie channels the best premieres are Love in the Big City 3, The Place Beyond the Pines, End of Watch and The Counsellor.

 

TBI: What should distributors know about your channels before pitching content?

KH: We are open to invest in content in an early stage. Even though our factual and movie channels have a significant footprint, we do not broadcast to key territories like the US, UK or large European markets like Germany, Spain or France, so please talk to us at an early stage as we could be a perfect partner to provide some early funding and guarantee a great reach outside of these territories.

We have comprehensive acquisition briefs for each channel that we are happy to send out.

 

TBI: Which windows are you buying for and, separately, what types of on-demand rights do you require?

KH: First-run, exclusive content for basic and pay-TV for factual. For movies it’s a combination of first-run and library. We normally acquire all on-demand, catch up and online rights.

Forbidden History - The Secret of the Alchemists (Cineflix / Like a Shot Entertainment)

Forbidden History – The Secret of the Alchemists (Cineflix / Like a Shot Entertainment)

TBI: What is the key challenge facing buyers in today’s market?

KH: Both the factual and movie market are very competitive.

One of the challenges for factual content is that many US and international broadcasters demand to retain all worldwide rights for a US commission, which makes it more difficult for us to get hold of this content.

However more and more we see production companies holding on to these worldwide rights and we work quite a lot with them to acquire content in an early stage to provide top up funding.