How the LA Screenings Reflect a Changing TV Landscape

When an estimated 1,000 international TV buyers descend on Los Angeles for the annual TV event known as the LA Screenings, they will see a contracted market still recovering from the twin Hollywood strikes of last year and, to a somewhat lesser extent, the pandemic.

It kicks off with the LA Screenings Independents, held May 15-17 for smaller studios and distributors at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel, which are then followed by screenings at the major studios’ respective lots across May 18-22 where they present their latest shows. They may also host a variety of events for their clients during those days, which may include cocktail receptions and luncheons or dinners with talent and executives.

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While stalled projects ramped up as soon as the strikes ended, some delays were inevitable. “A couple of months ago I was wondering if we were going to be entertaining [buyers],” says Lisa Kramer, president, International Content Licensing, Paramount Global Content Distribution.

“But as we pulled the shows together, I was thrilled to see a collection that was diverse and broad and will showcase different aspects of our company,” she adds, indicating that they will be screenings pilots of the Lasse Halstrom-directed “The Darkness,” based on Icelander Ragnar Jónasson’s thriller book series; the buzzy fact-based “Happy Face,” starring Dennis Quaid made for Paramount+, and the darkly comic “Average Joe,” inspired by the life of creator Robb Cullen. Kramer sees their procedurals, such as “NCIS, “CSI” and FBI,” as their “stock and trade,” with upcoming straight-to series-orders “Watson,” a medical mystery procedural, and “NCIS: Origins” to be highlighted at the presentation.

In recent years, script orders have dipped as Hollywood navigates a widespread wave of budget constraints and further consolidations, with Paramount the latest on the block. Major companies have been slashing both content and marketing budgets while letting go of hundreds of employees.

The consensus is that FAST channels and AVOD are the rising stars in this fast-changing media landscape.

“It’s been fascinating to see the new customer segments emerge in the entertainment market. We’re particularly interested in the advent of FAST channels on connected devices as well as on other platforms,” says Belinda Menendez, president & chief revenue officer of Global TV Distribution, NBCUniversal.

The studio will be presenting a robust slate at its new state-of-the-art theatres. These will include thriller series “The Day of the Jackal,” starring Eddie Redmayne; “Fight Night: The Million Dollar Heist” with Kevin Hart, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle and Taraji P. Henson; “Hysteria!” starring Julie Bowen; “Sweetpea,” and comedies led by “St. Denis Medical” and “Happy’s Place,” aside from trailers and sneak peeks of other new series.

“The LA Screenings has seen a dip in attendance since the pandemic and the strikes, but we still believe in the market and its potential and have many meetings scheduled with our clients this year,” notes Nadav Palti, CEO & president of Dori Media Group, who points out that being in L.A. gives them the chance to both participate in the market and meet with key clients based there. Aside from its gripping new series, “Amia,” of which Dori Media will be screening two episodes at the Screenings, the company will be presenting a slew of projects ripe for potential remakes or outright licensing deals. These include hit reality couple series “Power Couple,” innovative cooking show “Yum Factor,” “15 a la Hora,” a remake of the Israeli drama “Minimum Wage” and high-end drama, “Indal.”

“The industry has obviously contracted, and we find it more difficult to place projects with the pace and agility with which we did previously. But from these difficulties, opportunities also arise,” remarks Harvey Grisalez, SVP, Onza Américas, the U.S. outpost of leading Spanish production company, Onza (“The Ministry of Time”) whose general manager Carlos Garde also attends the event.

“Today we see co-production, partnering with talent, production efficiency and tapping numerous tax incentives as advantages to push projects forward,” adds Grisalez, noting that this is in Onza’s DNA. ” “Since its founding in Spain 10 years ago, there’s been a focus on seeking business models with alliances, managing incentives and creative business models in which we feel very comfortable working,” says Garde.

EO Media CEO Eze Olzanski remarks: “There are indeed fewer and fewer players and more consolidation,” adding: “I believe we shouldn’t fight against these situations but adapt to them, draw up new strategies to continue building agreements and projects that can see the light.”

Acknowledging the uncertainty brought on by the advent of AI, Olzanski looks on the bright side: “In recent years, technology has brought the world much closer and has given us the possibility to expand beyond our own borders. In that sense, we have been dedicated both to our traditional business of selling our distribution catalog and co-production projects, and to establishing ties beyond Latin America to the U.S, Europe and other territories.”

“Presently, we’re actively involved in developing projects and partnerships that have emerged from those endeavors,” he adds.

“There’s always an uncertainty in this market landscape, but the key is to learn to pivot and find new creative ways to create content and engage audiences,” concurs Marie Leguizamo, managing director of Banijay México & U.S. Hispanic, which focuses on unscripted content and production services.

“We ‘re very lucky that we’re part of the Banijay family where we’re able to tap into its catalog which has over 2,000 IPs, but we’re always looking to create something new to bring to market, like ‘Wall of Beat’ or ‘Limitless Win,’ says Leguizamo, adding that they have about 15 new IPS that are currently in development and close to taking out to market.

In “The Wall of Beat,” freestyle rap contestants and hosts interact with a high-tech interactive display. “Limitless Win” is the first ever game show with an unlimited cumulative prize via a money ladder.

Says Menendez: “We’ve seen new companies and players entering the market, and there are different needs in each of the various territories, but we have an amazing group of customers that have been screening with us for many, many years. And as exciting as change and evolution can be, we are always delighted to welcome back old friends to LA in May.”

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