As usual the Media and Entertainment team here at Fieldfisher attended the Cannes Film Festival. Or as it should have been called this year "Cannes let's-only-talk-about-TV-not-Film Festival". The majority of the conversations we were part of concerned the development, production or finance of TV content. One would be right to question whether this shift is a temporary reaction to Weinstein and similar scandals? Or is it simply in line with the trend towards high value TV we've noticed for some time? My opinion is that it is a combination of both.
It is certainly no coincidence that the hottest ticket in town – the AMFAR Gala – was less attended by industry royalty than in previous years. An insider told me that the usual Hollywood A-Listers declined their invitations and the organisers even had trouble finding a musical performer where in the past the Gala was one of THE places to perform. This pessimistic atmosphere amongst talent suggests that film as one of our highest forms of media is not being championed or celebrated this year as it usually is (and still should be).
So, musings aside, what is the attraction of investing in high-end TV drama rather than in mid-range UK feature films for the producers, distributors and agents swirling around Cannes? Independent UK feature film finance structures are becoming more complex as producers become creative in their attempts to fully fund their budgets. By contrast, TV projects tend to have a more simplified structure with solid backing from bankable household funders – a broadcaster, a tax credit and a co-production partner. For financiers, with TV it is simple gap financing against one or two large distribution advances. It's a less intense transaction to be part of and their risk is perceived to be less. This reality coupled with what we observe to be weakness in the presale market and the decline of the EIS market, and in the context of #MeToo makes TV a more alluring proposition for investors and content producers.