The advantages of independently funding and distributing a new TV programme

Melanie - the world's most talented raccoon

Melanie – the world’s most talented raccoon – will be showcased at Cannes.

By JOHN GUBBA

Back in 1999, armed with a modest pre-sale agreement from Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet, we decided to self-fund production of ‘Wild Thing’ – a TV series that we have since distributed to over 60 countries across three continents,

Next month we commence filming ‘Melanie Raccoon’ a pilot film part-funded by our co-investors, and the ambition is to emulate the success of Wild Thing with a children’s TV series that has enormous potential. Not just as a broadcast programme. The possibilities for merchandise spin-offs are just as exciting.

But how big a gamble is it to commence production without a guaranteed broadcaster on board?

The reality is that investing in TV production and then relying on selling the programmes to broadcasters at the markets is a risky business. Nine times out of ten a broadcaster commission will guarantee a bigger budget than the revenue you will receive from making one solitary sale at MipTV or any other market.

But sometimes timing, independence and proving your formula works has more long term value. And that is the thinking behind our forthcoming production of Melanie Raccoon. Not to mention the challenge of proving Simon Cowell wrong when he pressed his big red buzzer for our furry friend on the 2013 series of Britain’s Got Talent.

If you want editorial independence, the only guarantee that you will get that is by self-funding. But then of course you run the risk that broadcasters will reject your work because they have not been part of the development process.

On the other hand, produce the prototype in the shape of the first programme for a proposed new TV series and then broadcasters from around the world can see exactly what they will be investing in when they place their order for the next six, 12 or 25 episodes.

‘Melanie Raccoon – What’s For Breakfast’

Even in this case, of course, we started off by producing a short teaser with the intention of showing this to potential broadcasters. The upshot was that ‘Melanie Raccoon – What’s For Breakfast’ impressed an investor, who has come on board to co-fund the pilot episode. And that’s the difference between simply talking about an idea and putting your courage where your convictions are and getting started.

The teaser is only a taster that demonstrates the potential for a broadcast programme that will give Melanie her own human voice. Casting has already begun if you fancy your chances and want to be the voice of Melanie Raccoon.

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