Ahead of Mipcom 2021, Marc Lorber, SVP, International TV Co-productions and Acquisitions at Lionsgate, spoke to TTV+ about the content he’s looking for in the international market.
TTVMedia, through its TTV+ platform and backed by Eccho Rights, presents its Buyers: What Are They Looking For? initiative to find out more about international buyers’ programming needs.
The interviews were conducted through the base of over 5,000 buyers registered on TTV+, a 24/7 online marketplace where buyers can look through catalogs from thousands of companies, and in which distributors can contact them to close businesses.
This time, we present Aaron Berger, Marc Lorber, SVP, International TV Co-productions and Acquisitions at Lionsgate.
Which type of content are you currently looking for?
Largely, returnable series, scripted, drama, comedy has been harder, never say never. But returnable drama series, the occasional prestigious miniseries, meaning it has a lot of elements involved. We are still largely looking at majority English-language series. It doesn’t mean when a Lupin or Fauda or Narcos comes around, that we won’t snap it up. But majority English-language.
What elements does a content have to have to spark your interest?
There are elements that are always going to get us, as a larger studio, more excited earlier on. And that’s normally when somebody has a recognizable piece of IP, it may involve known or notable writer/creators, known or notable lead director, and any time somebody has cast attached who move the needles, not just good casting but significant casting that’s always terrific.
And of course on an acquisitions/distribution side, anytime somebody has the strong interest, if not involvement, of an anchor broadcaster in a key country or territory, it’s also a good element to have. And the more of those elements you have, the more likely a larger entity like us is going to come in.
What type of stories are you looking for?
We’re genre agnostic, but that said, we’re trying to stand in corners that are not crowded. There are genres that are harder sells, internationally in a lot of key countries. But our DNA is to never have said never, or we wouldn’t have had Nurse Jackie, or Mad Men, or Weeds, or Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist, or any of the shows that we’ve been involved in that have been successes.
Generally we look for things that are slightly left or right from center, not middle of the road, and for international there has to be something unique, and yet, universal, even if they’re local stories, there has to be something universal in it, so we can take it around the world.
Is there any specific content that has caught your attention during this past year?
Sure. We’ve got some new shows coming up. I can’t talk about them until they’re formally announced, but a range of things. I think we are always motivated first by the quality of the story, the writers and the writing, and the people involved, the production company and the producers. To be working with the right people, who we feel can execute that concept, that show, with the right broadcasters.
It’s a range of things. We were always a company that was doing diverse programming like Dear White People, or Power, or P-Valley, or Vida, and I could go back a number of years. We’ve been granted production of the NYT 1619 project alongside Oprah. So we were always doing diverse programming. A number of the programs we’re getting involved in internationally have some diverse or indigenous story creators or elements to them. We’re always open to that. We distribute Rami, the great Muslim-American dramedy.
We’re open to new places, new faces, new geography, and we’ve done really well with talented people who have come to us or been under an umbrella, so it’s a combination of keeping an open window and a door that people know where to knock on.
Has the pandemic changed Lionsgate’s strategy or business in any way?
I don’t think so. I can only speak on the TV side. We’re making more shows than we ever have across more platforms and broadcasters than we ever have. We’re very agnostic, so we’re selling as an indie to a number of entities, competitors, friends, everybody. And the same thing internationally, we’re looking for partners to co-producer and work with. So no, I think if anything it’s created more opportunity for an independent studio like us to work with a diversity of talents and have more places theoretically to sell those projects than we ever have.
Production studios are good at adapting to challenges and overcoming them. Obviously most people had never gone through such a physical and mental strain of the pandemic, but we’re used to challenges. Once we could get our heads around the rules, we were able to find a path. It wasn’t always easy but we found a path through by working with all our partners. We’re lucky. We finished the third season of Motherland last fall and that was the number one scripted series on BBC Two. The Pact for BBC Wales came back up and it’s the number one new scripted drama. It’s a testament to everyone working hard, finding a path through and never saying no.