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2014 Year in Review, part one

Year_in_review_pt1-1In the first part of a three-part special on the moments of 2014 and those ahead of us in 2015, top international industry executives comment on the news that defined 2014 in television for them.

There was no shortage of headlines stories on TBIvision in 2014, as a new television production, distribution and broadcast landscape emerged via a series of cutting-edge programmes and high-level acquisitions. In programme making circles, no deal was bigger than the coming together of Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media as an umbrella group controlled by 21st Century Fox and Apollo Global Management.

The deal closed just before Christmas, rounding off a year of twists and turns. At the top of the newly-formed Endemol Shine Group, Sophie Turner Laing and Tim Hincks will play major roles in 2015.

Viacom surprised everyone by acquiring UK free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5, while Discovery and Liberty Global formed a partnership to acquire the UK’s biggest super-indie, All3Media. Elsewhere in the UK, Sky Vision bought Bake Off prodco Love Productions.

Further deals saw ITV Studios buy Leftfield Entertainment for US$360 million, Entertainment One build its factual slate through acquisitions and DHX Media acquire a number of Canadian companies including Family Channel, Nerd Corps and Degrassi studio Epitome Pictures. AMC also took a 49.9% share in BBC America after closing a US$750 million deal for Chellomedia earlier in the year.

The biggest deal of them all didn’t actually happen – Rupert Murdoch’s opportunist attempt to buy US rival Time Warner for US$80 billion was rejected. The year ended with bad news for the studios as Sony was hacked, with personal data and emails leaked in a crisis that President Obama commented on.

A mixed season for the US broadcasters meant most of the headlines went to the on-demand services. Netflix teed up its big-budget Marco Polo series and confirmed its first original shows in France and the UK. Amazon made waves with Transparent and when it saved BBC drama Ripper Street from the scrapheap.

Netflix’s seemingly unstoppable march continued with launches across Europe and plans for an Australasian service unveiled. But it wasn’t just Reed Hastings getting column inches, as various local SVOD services launched as traditional TV companies tapped into the opportunity of on-demand. Cable net HBO unveiled plans for a subscription online service that will take on Netflix in 2015.

Here, key industry executives reveal the moments they feel defined the television business in 2014.

 

The television business has never been so unpredictable and exciting. Maybe 2014 was the pivotal point where the US studios lost their dominant position?

Stephen Mowbray, SVT International

 

“Discovery and Liberty Global’s acquisition of All3Media”
– Samuel Kissous, CEO, Pernel Media

“In terms of impact and shaping the future, it’s obviously the BBC’s announcement that their in-house team will effectively become an independent”
– Ian Lamarra, creative director, Alaska TV

“It has to be the Shine, Endemol and Core merger – ‘mega-indies’ do not get much bigger than that”
– Helen Tonge, managing director, Title Role

 

Globally, the merger of the creative companies into big corporations has had a huge impact on the industry as a whole. Discovery and Liberty Global acquiring All3, Viacom buying Channel Five and the merger of Endemol and Shine, means that television is perhaps becoming more homogenised

Kate Beal, founder, Woodcut Media

 

“The Supreme Court knocked down the Aereo technology threat of over the top retransmission of broadcast signals over the internet, which had massive copyright rights implications, and immensely disruptive consequences to existing business models for local US stations”
Rod Perth, president, NATPE

“One moment of quiver was when ITV pulled out of Rising Star – the industry is reflecting on how viewers really want to watch TV. Sometimes creating a chill-out family moment and allowing passive viewing in entertainment is no bad thing”
– Janet Frawley, head of formats, RTÉ Global

“The rise of devices other than TV sets or laptops require us to think differently about how to attract audiences as they find new ways to discover and enjoy quality content”
– Jon Sichel, managing director UK and and EMEA, Scripps Networks International

 

It has to be the Shine and Endemol merger – the consequences are greater outside this merger than inside. All of the larger distributors now look like medium-sized corner shops, which is dangerous. If you are going to be a generalist player you need scale

Paul Heaney, managing director, TCB Rights

 

“The increasing involvement of distributors within coproductions is something that became even more of a theme in 2014. For some companies, distributors have started to join the process at the beginning to help drive the creative process”
– Gwawr Martha Lloyd, content commissioner, S4C

“The recognition that Vice is offering a serious alternative for younger audiences”
– Fiona Stourton, Ten Alps TV