|The US market: 50 channels to talk to|
The main question addressed in this series of posts has been: how do I identify a market for my content? And the emphasis has not been on home markets, but external markets, in other words, exports.
I have emphasized a knowledge-based approach (hope that does not sound pretentious.) I observe that the traditional approach to sales is: show of your wares, attract as much attention as you can, build relationships. All essential, but knowledge can make it even more effective.
First question about the country or market you are looking at is: where are the gaps? However good your contacts, a basic framework or theory of content demand will help focus those enquiries and provide scope for independent initiatives.
So start with the basic assumption that mainstream audiences prefer home-made content.I tried to explain the reason for this cultural preference in the first post in this series.
I will talk about non-mainstream channels at a later date.
Look first for what they can’t they do themselves, or do enough of. Depending on the size of the country or market, there could be many types of content that cannot be made at home in the required quantities…expensive documentaries, drama, comedy, formats for games or reality entertainment.
I use primetime drama as a core example because it is so expensive that even countries with large populations cannot afford as much as they need.
For mainstream audiences, here are some questions:
Is it familiar enough? In other words, even if that audience is used to dubbed or subtitled material, will they be able to make sense of it?
I explained in an earlier blog that basic aspects of US life, for example, have become so familiar that they pose few “cognitive” issues. A French or British drama on the other hand needs a bit more help. The British series called Sherlock has done quite well – Sherlock Holmes is quite a widely known character, at least in Europe. Midsummer Murders, known around the world mainly as Inspector Barnaby, uses an English village as its location, familiar from the British detective novel, another worldwide favourite.
Stories need not only to feel familiar. They also need to be attractive and relevant. Famous cities work better than country towns.
As for the subject matter, it will have to do a traditional job in a special way. In an earlier post I talked about the human fascination with murder. Every schedule in every country on our planet offers murder mysteries. Decide what is missing from their repertoire and see if you have got it, or can make it.
Our fascination with murder is one of many instinctive biological responses that secure attention. Suspense is another – an ancient response that warns us to pay attention because something bad may be about to happen.
The approach taken in this series is very basic. It is intended to make the point that basic knowledge helps to ground everything that follows. In future posts I will try to understand the more intricate problem of why something succeeds -- sometimes unexpectedly.
But the first step must always be to identify and know the customer. The largest media market in the world is the US. It is only recently that other players have sought to sell into that market on any scale. But things are changing.
That is why structure of the US market is has become so important. To help approach that market from outside, our company has created, in association with the UK magazine Broadcast, the most comprehensive report on the US market ever written. It’s called US TV: Commissioning Strategies: 2011 to 2012. You can visit the micro-site by clicking the link.