Monetize Your Video Content Globally - 6 Things Every Producer Should Know
Back in 2002, I was working as the VP biz dev for a burgeoning TV production company. They had amassed several hundred hours of content, originally developed for distribution on various broadcast and payTV networks (including Discovery and PBS). Most of this content was sitting idle on the shelves, having met initial contractual obligations. A few distributors had expressed interest in representing the library - and one was given a short term opportunity to do so - but the net result was little to no activity or sales.
As the chief revenue executive in charge of identifying, cultivating and executing monetization strategies/tactics, I was perplexed as to why this premium library of documentary and factual programs was not gaining traction. So I delved deeper, performing an audit of the recent distribution company's efforts (meetings, trade shows, proposals, sales, notes). Then I conducted an analysis of the video library (post-production, archival process, program format). And finally, I began attending the conferences, trade shows, and exhibitions - learning first-hand what buyers wanted, needed, and what they didn't want.
The results were revealing (updated with latest insights) - and share worthy - for any production company or content IP rights holder looking to generate ancillary revenue through syndication, licensing and international distribution.
1. Get your assets in shape. If you haven't prepped your masters for domestic and international distribution, don't expect much action. At a minimum, every program should be mastered into four versions - full mix master; air copy (original broadcaster specs); split audio track w/ separate music & effects; and textless / superless global (incl. split audio track). Reminder, this is the minimum - it's not uncommon to have upwards of 6-8+ in-house versions to meet the various distribution needs. You also need complete transcripts (professional, standardized format in word doc) and music cue sheets for each video asset. Note: split audio track (min. 2 channels separating narration/vo and music/effects) is critical for any licensee looking to dub into local languages; and superless versions along with textless graphics package allow licensees further language customization.
2. Future proof your content. Capturing and finalizing in HD is the bare minimum. Continually research and invest in the best equipment. Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) & 4k (4096 x 2160) are the next gen resolution - be prepared to commit to ensure your content is not left behind. Just ask the production company sitting on hundreds of hours of SD. Sure you can always upconvert - but it doesn't hit the mark.
3. Think and produce modularly. Regardless of the genre, all long form content (30 min. or greater) should be produced with a modular concept in mind. Find logical cut points that allow for discrete separation of the programs into bite-sized versions. For example, a half hour show could be conceived and edited into 3 or 4 parts - ideal for online and mobile platforms. To accomplish this you may need to design your shoots to capture enough footage to ensure a seamless edit session. You may even want to shoot multiple versions during production - remember running long on production shoots is better/cheaper than reshooting. This is the old Adobe mantra of 'create once publish everywhere'. Make your content work for you, not the other way around.
4. Know what works in the U.S. and abroad. If you're producing a documentary or series and it's loaded with U.S. or local country centric stats - unless the subject matter covers a globally relevant topic or reveals an undiscovered 'world' that is particularly fascinating - expect little traction in the international market. Likewise, talking heads are the quickest way to turn off a buyer - unless the subject matter absolutely demands it. Far better to show not tell. Well-positioned graphics & strong b-roll are the hallmarks of good production. Remember, it's all about story telling. Tell it right through compelling visuals and it will travel well.
5. Nobody knows your content better than you (or is as passionate). Truth is, most producers don't have the time, experience, or marketing budget to make self-representation worthwhile. That is why finding a good distribution partner - one you can trust, who completely understands your films/programs, and who is credible with a proven track record of success - is crucial. Transparency is key, anything less...move on. Establish basic, broad deal terms and stand firm - evaluating as you go on a case-by-case basis. DO NOT give carte blanche decision making to the distributor. This is a partnership - review, discuss and approve EVERY deal (at least until such time you've established good faith and understanding).
6. Make the rounds. Even if you have a distributor, don't make the mistake of holing up in the editing suite. Get out there and press the flesh. Do your homework and open a dialogue with networks, other producers, distributors, online & mobile platforms, and emerging OTT players. The best way to do this is to attend a few key markets (e.g. NATPE, MIPTV, LA Screenings, RealScreen). Networking opens doors (co-production, new deals, ideas/pitches) and is vital to your brand development.
While you may be nodding your head, affirming your understanding of the above - you'd be surprised how many (large) production companies I encounter that have not executed on many (or any) of these basic tenets. The net result is more often loss of potential revenue, whether they are willing to admit it or not.