Lining Up Exclusives

Thursday, October 31 2013
Lining Up Exclusives

Range. Value. Convenience. It¹s been the LOVEFiLM motto for more than a decade, back to the days when it started as a purely rental by post operator. But now, in its new incarnation as a hybrid company offering its old rental by post and streaming options, those three elements remain key, as its marketing chief Simon Morris tells The Raygun.

³Our focus is very much on the streaming business, our values still hold true,² he says. ³It¹s about having the broadest possible range, an assortment of titles. It¹s in a different way from an envelope through the post than streaming.”

The range side of the holy trinity is being bolstered by LOVEFiLM’s acquisitions policy. “We’ve been doing what you’d expect us to do,” he says, “building a library of content, starting with Vikings, followed up by Copper and now Crossing Lines.

“We’re taking on content for our customers in an exclusive way. We’re acquiring available rights to content at different stages in the life cycle.”

Crossing Lines is the latest of these.

A truly international production, it’s filmed across Europe with a cast that puts the United Nations to shame.

So how did LOVEFiLM come to be involved and, more pertinently, what does it mean for a series such as Crossing Lines?

“First, it’s about coming up with an idea that would interest people,” says Rola Bauer, producer of the programme for the Studiocanal-owned Tandem production company. “You have to develop it and convince people they should be working on it, people behind and in front of the camera. You have to speak to the networks, look at tax credit… it truly is a co-production.”

With a number of different partners on board, including assorted European broadcasters, producers looked to the UK. “It was a very strategic step,” Bauer says. “We wanted to get into business with LOVEFiLM and we’ll hopefully do something with them again in the future.”

LOVEFiLM, Bauer says, bought both season one and two of Crossing Lines – a total of 22 episodes – meaning the relationship is already very strong. The likelihood of the two partnering again, possibly with LOVEFiLM involved at an even earlier stage, looks high.

“The strategic relationship stems from wanting to do programming with them,” says Bauer, “but also my personal love of how we watch TV.”

She continues, warming to the theme: “The masters of the broadcasting game are still the free to air broadcasters, but we, the consumers, want to watch TV the way we want to watch it. Even the pay TV channels have their limitations. LOVEFiLM gives it to us when we want it.”

What’s more, she adds, Crossing Lines fits the bill for binge viewing, but consumers can also dip in and out or watch at a more sedate paced. “For streaming you need a serialised aspect, Crossing Lines is a hybrid; there are serialised character arcs and individual episodic crimes.”

Bauer and her team were even bold enough to end the first season with a cliffhanger because, as she says, she “wanted broadcasters to come back”. In the States, that was NBC and, in its second window, Netflix. (The night before, Bauer had referred referred to the other streaming giant as merely “another” company. “There is no other company,” joked the lively Fichtner.)

There was interest from linear, traditional TV broadcasters elsewhere, but the fact LOVEFiLM spotted the edginess of the programme and wanted to make it their own, like Vikings, enticed Bauer and co. “There were enough elements there to make it interesting for LOVEFiLM to make it exclusive.”

The fact the aforementioned Fichtner and other star Tom Wlaschiha (Game Of Thrones), flew in for a press junket, premiere and Q&A. “It was our first launch together, it was really important for us to give whatever support we could.”

Back with Simon Morris and the marketing chief is talking about the best way to market Crossing Lines. The Amazon ownership gives LOVEFiLM numerous channels with which it can reach its customer base and beyond.

“We’ve got a fantastic array of channels we can use. We can use targeted emails and other channels. We’ll see that evolve from Friday onwards,” he says.

And where next for its exclusive programming? As well as local acquisitions, such as Crossing Lines, there’s more too.

“We’re starting to invest in our own way,” he says, “with the Amazon Pilots. It’s a new way of allowing great content to come to market.” This offers up viewers of Amazon’s Prime subscription vod scheme in the US and LOVEFiLM Instant users in the UK the chance to vote on which of a number of programmes they prefer. “We’re giving them more involvement in the whole process, we’re engaging with people in the content creating process.”

How then, we venture, is it performing so far, with the mix of Amazon Pilots and programmes such as Vikings? “It’s very early days yet,” he concludes. “It’s day one in this business, we’re looking at data and we’re trying different things.”

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