CU: Where do you find inspiration for a new show idea?
KF: Our show ideas come from a variety of sources. We have offices in North America and Asia and over the years have shot in over 80 countries, so we tend to be very internationally aware. This constant exposure to diverse cultures, different media outlets and global experiences helps our team to think differently. We produce TV programming for the world market and as such we try to always consider creative ideas that are universal, that touch viewers regardless of language or geography and that tell a compelling story. How do we find these ideas – we look, we live, we experience and above all we keep an open mind when traveling.
CU: What research do you do before going into a pitching session?
KF: This is perhaps the MOST important element when considering any new pitch. Networks program 12 to 24 months ahead of what’s on air now and so it is critical to match ideas and creatives to where a network is going, not where they’ve been. We rely on CABLEreadyfor this feedback, we consult CableU and we read industry trades. But we also never forget to simply ask our broadcast partners, “what do you want, what are you looking for?”
CU: What advise do you have for upstart producers trying to get their foot in the door?
KF: Don’t have an ego and be flexible. For an upstart Producer I would recommend they concentrate on smaller networks and don’t worry about the larger nets at first. The smaller broadcasters tend to be a little more flexible than their larger counterparts and that means they’re more open to change and innovation. As well they are a great proving ground. It is important for all Producers to hone their chops and learn to solve problems in order to deliver under battle conditions. This isn’t an easy industry and lack of budget, lack of time and lack of resources are a constant, learn how to manage these issues and you will do well. Learn how to do wonders with very little and then you will be able to do what you want and make a difference.
CU: What show do you wish you had produced and why?
KF: That’s easy, TOP GEAR. Why? Because it is beautifully shot, wonderfully edited, and is a lot of fun to watch. The Hosts all have great personalities, the stories are smart, creative and very original, and the program’s format is malleable so it never gets old and never seems stale. For me this is the perfect example of a series that started with a good idea, was built with careful planning and quality writing, enhanced with wonderful production values, and toped off with talented on air and off camera people who are giving the freedom to shine. It’s the perfect non-fiction formula for success and it is flawlessly executed.
CU: What types of shows do you think are most in demand now?
KF: I think the domestic US market is in somewhat of a transition phase right now. Reality shows (as broadly defined as they seem to be) are still top of the non-fiction list, as are competition and human-interest programs. But this is very broad. These categories cover everything from cooking to medical, from dance to fashion design, and everything in between. In a fractured market like this I believe there is room for a new trend or dominate theme to evolve. Right now I’m seeing broadcasters working to find out what audiences want and how to take advantage of new technologies and new ways of doing business. It is an exciting time to be in our industry as change ALWAYS creates opportunity and right now I think broadcasters and audiences are open to change.
CU: What types of programs do you wish were in demand now? (or think should be)
KF: I would like to see more of a focus on global storytelling. I think what matters to a viewer in Buenos Aires is very similar to what matters to a viewer in Boston, and I believe a compelling program that takes place in China can be every bit as interesting to an audience in Seattle or Shanghai. As this world gets smaller the TV series we produce should expand to cover a wider range of topics, a more engaged viewpoint. I’ve seen great TV on six continents so we have a lot to learn from and many different styles to be inspired by.
CU: What types of projects interest you most and why?
KF: These days we’re focused on projects that we see as disruptive; media properties that cross the line between on air and on line, that push the boundaries of new technologies and new ways of doing business. We want to build brands with content that creates a relationship with a global audience and programming that works on mobile platforms, on broadband and of course on television. We no longer feel that simply producing a TV show is enough; we want to create platforms. That is what excites me and also scares the heck out of me.
CU: How important do you think it is for your show idea to have an online component?
KF: This is critical, it maybe trite but television as we know it is dead. Audiences are changing, their viewing habits are radically different than just a few years ago, and the options they have for entertainment and information is growing everyday. So we TV Producers have to embrace this new reality. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, sales on iTunes, a great website, a mobile version, an iPhone app, all are new tools for the Producer. I cannot imagine producing a series these days that isn’t built from the ground up to be a convergent platform. This is the future and it is exciting, but there is one codicil. Who’s going to pay for this and how does it translate to our bottom-line? I’ll let you know when we figure that part out.
CU: Where does most of your budget funding come from, if not from the network?
KF: We produce media brands, not just TV shows. We approach each new project, whether it is a co-pro, or something internally generated and funded, as a new business. We look for funding sources in both traditional and non-traditional places and we try to identify revenue streams from multiple pools. Years ago I’d say we just produced TV shows, today we wear many different hats but the model is clear; identify all potential funding sources (networks, pre-sales, investors, grants, loans, partners, operating capital), target all potential revenue lines (program sales, advertising, sponsorship & promotion, retail, product extensions, content sales), subtract your expected costs and see if you have a business. If you don’t, don’t proceed. If you do, good luck.
CU: How often do you attend industry conferences and festivals, and which are most important for your business?
KF: We rely on CABLEready to represent us at most TV events but over the years I have attended MIPTV and MIPCOM, NATPE, NAB, Realscreen Summit and more. We also reach out to non-industry shows. Because we produce programs that require a lot of travel we attend shows like the International Luxury Travel Mart every December in Cannes. This year our team has attended events in Dubai, China, Australia, India, Italy, Switzerland and South Africa.
Kevin Fox is the President & CEO of Re:Source Media Inc, a globally integrated media organization that produces high definition television series and multi-platform interactive content for worldwide audiences.
Kevin manages the company’s offices in Toronto, New York and Beijing, as well as overseeing creative activities at their Toronto and Bangkok studios. Each week the company’s programming reaches into tens of millions of households in over 60 countries across six continents. Kevin’s unique passion is bridging the gap between ideas and implementation and blurring the lines between broadcast and broadband programming. He says he lives in Toronto but in reality, he lives on a plane.