Increasing sales, new alliances and deals, and new territories conquered are just some of the things RTR has accomplished during these challenging times, all while keeping its employees safe. Julia Matyash, Director of Sovtelexport, spoke to ttvnews about these milestones and the new titles the Russian company’s distribution arm is now presenting in the international market.
It’s safe to say these past few months have been one of the most challenging in recent times. But one of the few positive things to come out of the global pandemic has been the increasing need for content, with families across the globe seeking entertainment during the quarantine.
And one of the distributors that has been able to rise to this challenge is Sovtelexport, the distribution arm for Russia TV and Radio, which has taken its high-end catalog of premium dramas and content to almost every corner of the globe.
“Even during these challenging times, we managed to maintain the sales rate high. Our distribution activity did not weaken: we keep successfully presenting new drama series on the market, participating in online events and festivals, striking deals with new clients and, most importantly, exploring new territories,” said Julia Matyash, director of the distributor, who spoke to ttvnews about how the company has adapted to the “new normal” and what’s new in terms of content for the international market.
Which titles and productions is the company presenting for the international market?
At the autumn markets, Sovtelexport is presenting several new titles. The first is the TV series Cloister, based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Zakhar Prilepin. It is a poignant and shocking love story unfolding on the background of the horrors of the Solovetsky special purpose camp in post-Civil-War Russia.
Then we have the feature film Elsa’s Land, a moving love story of 70-year-old Leonid and Elsa. Their families do not approve of their love, which leads to a tense confrontation between generations.
Lastly, we have the TV series The Lockdown, which was initiated in the pre-Covid times, but turned out to be prophetic. It centers on the idea that any pandemic will end and the people’s main task is to preserve eternal human values, such as love, friendship and commitment to principles.
Speaking of hybrid events, what’s your opinion about digital marketplaces? Do you think they are a good solution to the current health crisis or are physical events simply the best option? Why so?
Unfortunately, hybrid events did not improve the situation radically. Quarantine restrictions still affect both formats
How has the last year been for your company in terms of business and strategies for working under the “new normal”? How has the business changed?
Even during these challenging times, we managed to maintain the sales rate high. Our distribution activity did not weaken: we keep successfully presenting new drama series on the market, participating in online events and festivals, striking deals with new clients and, most importantly, exploring new territories: Australia, for instance. The Optimists series was included in the catalog of the SBS On Demand VOD Platform. It is the second most viewed digital platform in the country.
Last year, our series were aired on the largest TV channels and VOD platforms of the world. We have signed agreements with TF-1 Histoire (France), TVP 2 (Poland), RAI (Italy), RTVS (Slovakia), HRT (Croatia), CJ (South Korea), GINGA (Japan), Discovery channel Japan, Senal (Columbia). Titles from our catalog were included in Netflix and Amazon Prime libraries.
One of the main trends during the pandemic has been the growth of streaming platforms all over the world, with audiences having to quarantine and looking for new forms of entertainment. How has this influenced Sovtelexport’s strategy? Is OTT more important now in terms of distribution?
Undoubtedly, the growing amount of new streaming platforms affected our international strategy. The demand for digital rights is high. And new services are more flexible in choosing content, since they are eager to find their niche on the market. Due to this, Sovtelexport was able to explore new territories in 2020-2021. Nowadays, VOD sales is not only an independent segment. Many TV channels use their platforms to test audience reaction, for example.
Which RTR titles have been demanded the most by platforms and broadcasters around the world during this past year?
The appetite for high-end screen adaptations of the famous contemporary Russian writers’ works is strong. Our film versions fans found Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes, Blackout and Cloister very exciting.
And undoubtedly, period dramas with their large-scale productions, gripping plots, gorgeous costumes and decorations remain very demanded. Apart from being incredibly beautiful and educative shows, they help us to solve the most insoluble modern conflicts and problems.
Lately, the major Polish television network Telewizja Polska S.A. started broadcasting the All Quiet In Cossack Village… telenovela in its prime time.
In Japan, the GINGA channel showed the second season of the top-rate period drama Ekaterina and already licensed rights for the continuation of the show, Ekaterina: Pretenders, for broadcasting in 2021.
The OSN channel purchased the film version of Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel Anna Karenina directed by Karen Shakhnazarov. Senal, the state channel of Colombia, acquired rights for the period drama Sophia. Amazon Prime included The Terrible, The Blood Widow, The Optimists: Caribbean Season, Ekaterina, Demons, The Prince’s guard, Peter the Great: Testament among many other TV series in its library.
How do you see the future of the content production and distribution business under the “new normal” and what’s in store for RTR in this regard?
The present of cinema is shaped by the future. The creators must think of what themes will be relevant in 2-3 years, when their project is released. And the topic of after survival seems to be the most promising.
People are exhausted by overcoming and defeating the cruel circumstances. They will keep seeking answers to how to find the strength to live a full life after all those irreparable losses, horrors and catastrophes; where to get the power to continue their journey; where is this magical thread that will lead them out of this labyrinth of hopelessness and dread.