European Production Bosses Debate U.S. Agent Struggles  Series Mania

As competition for the best European talent ramps up, bosses at some of the continent’s biggest production houses are finding U.S. agents tricky to deal with.

According to Christian Vesper, The Hand of God producer Fremantle’s President of Global Drama, agents are chasing too high a price for their clients which fails to “support that nation’s production model,” while Marina Williams, the Co-Founding Partner of Asacha Media Group, said “the price isn’t always acceptable” on these deals and they tend to be more complex than those traditionally struck in Europe.

“We are running into this a lot and you have to argue constantly,” added Vesper.

Local European agents are also grappling with the challenge of landing the biggest streamer shows for their clients and keeping these clients away from the big Hollywood agents as competition grows, according to Federation Entertainment Co-Founder Lionel Uzan.

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“If they want to survive, the question for these local agents is how they keep their talent and get them work on the bigger shows,” he said. “This is where indie groups are a good asset.”

The Series Mania panelists all work for production houses who have been busy buying up labels and striking talent deals, as the streamers establish more and more of a European footprint.

They argued that top European talent are more keen to strike such deals with production houses than SVoDs, coming a day after Call My Agent! writer Quoc Dang Tran tied with Universal International Studios and in the same month as Angelina Jolie’s mega three-year Fremantle deal.

“We’re agnostic and can work with everyone,” said Lars Blomgren, Head of Scripted EMEA at Banijay, who recently signed up Netflix’s The Spy producer Alain Goldman. “If a creative is tied to an exclusive streamer deal they may produce something that is out of that streamer’s remit and that’s a problem. Some talent are happy with these [streamer] deals and some are frustrated.”

Asacha’s Williams said creatives “want to explore rather than living within one culture” and Uzan cited the “cultural aspect” to these deals, although he flagged Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy’s Netflix partnerships as proof they are still flourishing in the U.S.

All panelists said their businesses are seeking companies to acquire and scale up.

“We’d love more and want to be bigger,” said Julie Meldal-Johnsen, ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s EVP, Global Content. “We’re not ever really allowed to stop growing by our shareholders so are still very much in growth mode.”

Blomgren, whose outfit unveiled the acquisition of Romulus producer Grøenlandia Group yesterday, said problems can arise when labels are acquired and struggle to deal with the accompanying workload, although he stressed that Banijay can help with the issue.

“In Europe most companies are really small and the producers are very hands-on. You can handle two to three project a year so when you grow you may have more projects than the quality controls allow for.”

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