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Viewpoint: Should we go through the window to the world?

Formats-logo-460_2Gary Woolf, EVP, commercial development, All3Media InternationalGary-Woolf-photo

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Reed Hastings took to the stage to announce the ‘switching on’ of Netflix in 130 territories. Amazon has moved into new markets and African service Naspers is looking to defy national borders in the coming months.

In short, the number of potentially global VOD platforms continue to grow.

So how do you licence globally in an industry that has traditionally worked on a market-by-market basis? How do you manage the inevitable disruption to how content is windowed (and indeed watched), and the constant changes to T&Cs as traditional TV customers evolve into a world of ‘skinny bundles’ and OTT opportunity?

Any good distributor monitors the market to understand the shifting sands of the industry, but the best companies work through insight, client conversations and sales discussions to really assess the opportunities and strike creative deals.

At All3Media International we’ve been working in the fast-evolving digital sales environment for several years – embracing opportunities as companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu started writing their first deals with companies outside of the US, while continuing to grow our linear TV business.

Digital media now accounts for about 25% of our turnover. We also believe that whether through the continued growth of ‘digital-first’ players, or through the evolution of our ‘traditional TV’ client base, digital revenues across the industry will continue to grow aggressively.

That’s great, but managing and contracting is the challenge – how do you work with increasingly global platforms while retaining strong sales with regional clients? After all, if a platform is available in over 130 territories, who is going to write the deal? Who will work out the windows and find a way to align the deal across markets? Almost as important – who is going to be the point person responsible for delivering the level of customer service any decent distributor should be supplying?

The solution we have adopted is to have a ‘Global Digital Sales’ function, led by senior VP Paul Corney. It’s a role that we are seeing is increasingly significant, as the world gets more complex – or conversely, it’s getting much simpler for your licensing plan to fall over itself, or for opportunities to be missed because of a lack of pan-regional perspective.

Our global digital sales unit works with the regional sales teams to understand the local market pressure on exclusivity and holdbacks. We are able to balance where the opportunities sit, and work out a windowing plan across key titles that we hope ensures our clients get a fair return on their investment.

Digital media now accounts for about 25% of our turnover. We also believe that whether through the continued growth of ‘digital-first’ players, or through the evolution of our ‘traditional TV’ client base, digital revenues across the industry will continue to grow aggressively

It is this mix that also allows us the time to speak with new businesses coming to market to understand the latest twist on what is ultimately still television. It gives us a sense of foresight in our decision-making.

As with all leading distributors, we have a territory sales team structured to really dive deep and super-serve their markets. However, those that have an additional global lens should find it offers the potential to fully understand and explore all options with multi-regional players.

They look at how to find a path through the rights positions in each market where clients are looking to take second window, while evaluating the implications with our territory-focused sales team.

And of course it isn’t just about second windows any more – increasingly the conversation is about early presales, and understanding the impact of that on the overall investment model. That’s why having a ‘home’ for these relationships in a distribution business has huge benefits for our producers and our customers.

But it’s important not to just make these decisions based on pricing. It’s also about doing the right thing for your brands, ensuring that audiences know where to find your content, and the right audience can find the right content at the right time. It’s ensuring that customers feel compelled to promote your content, wherever they sit in the windowing chain, and that the business decisions you make also work for the consumer.