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Selling web series overseas

Two producers. One from French production and distribution company Rockzeline and the other an experienced Australian all-rounder. Both break down their advice about taking original online content global.

Online content is growing – fast.

In Australia, we have ABC iview and SBS On Demand from the public broadcasters. And the free-to-air networks have Tenplay, 7Plus and 9Now – the last of which recently acquired series High Life and Method. Similarly France Télévisions has its own catch-up service and BBC has iPlayer. Then there is the Studio+, in partnership with major telecom players, who make 10x10 minute content designed for your mobile. And YouTube RED, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Amazon and Stan are investing in original commissioned content.

And then there’s what Wndrco are doing in the US under the leadership of ex-CEO of DreamWorks Animation Jeffrey Katzenberg. Their goal is to revolutionise entertainment with high-end, short-form content.

But for an Australian online content creator, what does this mean? How can you build an audience, while also earning enough money to continue making a web series?

One way is through international sales.

In part one of this two-part series, Charlotte Seymour looks at it from an Australian producer’s perspective.

Seymour, from Seymour Films and Film Art Media, brought years of experience in documentary (Harry Seidler: Modernist), drama shorts and as executive producer at the ABC to creating the web series Other People’s Problems.

Locally, it premiered on ABC iview in late 2017 and will screen on ABC Comedy in 2018. But since then it’s signed a deal with German broadcaster and sales agent ZDF Enterprises and has been selected to screen as part of Drama Series Days in Berlinale. It was partly funded by the Screen Australia/ABC initiative Long Story Short, and private finance filled the gap. It also had a distribution advance from Film Art Media.

Seymour reveals what compelled her to venture into web series for the first time, why the belief that they’re “cheap as chips” is in some ways a myth, and why producers need to negotiate their IP rights if they want to have a sustainable business.

And in part two, producer Tom Pope from Rockzeline looks at it from an international production company and distributor’s standpoint. He reveals how he thinks Australia is positioned in terms of online content, the significance of geoblocking for Australians who want to sell their series overseas, and why Sydney was their location of choice when it came to launching the first arm of their production company outside of Paris.

Overall the two interviews paint a picture of the constant state of evolution for online content, and how a strong vision and adaptability will help you stay relevant. But also the significance around geoblocking (limiting access to a video to one region) and how it can help sales, but can hinder getting huge viewership numbers on one platform.