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Next TV: 'No Science' to OTT Program Deals

As Lionsgate plans to gear up its TV production following a larger investment from Liberty Media, Lionsgate TV president Sandra Stern said that a willingness to be flexible has played a key role in their ability to place shows on newer outlets like Hulu and Netflix. 

“Our claim to fame was that we put more first shows on cable network,” producing the first originals for such networks as AMC, Starz, and others, noted Stern.

Likewise that same flexible mindset, has helped them break new ground in the over-the-top (OTT) space, where they have emerged as one of the largest suppliers of programming.

“We did the [deal] for Hulu’s first original show and the first deal with Netflix,” she continued.

In terms of those deals, he stated that dealing with each of the OTT players is different. “Every time you do a deal with someone you are reinventing the world,” she said.

In their first deal with Hulu, for example, Stern noted that the SVOD provider wanted to limit its risk and that they eventually agreed to do a revenue share, something no other studio had been willing to do. “We were the only one willing to be flexible,” she said. “That is what defines us and sets apart.

Overtime, these OTT players have evolved. While the initial deal for Orange with Netflix was for U.S. and Canadian rights, Stern says that “they expect to be everywhere in 2017, so the deals with them are global deals.”

While Stern stressed that there was “no science” for deals for OTT deals, she added that there were some similarities. Their Hulu deal with Casual is not “unlike a deal you might do with AMC or cable,” with the SVOD player getting domestic rights and Lionsgate retaining international and home video.

Stern made the remarks at the Next TV Summit in San Francisco during the “Keynote Q&A: Driving New Deals for Content With Lionsgate TV’s Sandra Stern”session. It was moderated by Mark Robichaux, editorial director, B&CMultichannel News and Ratings Intelligence.

That approach has helped Lionsgate rapidly expand its TV production and business, with TV revenues growing from $8 million to nearly $600 million last year. It is now planning to invest additional cash in the sector following the increased investment by Liberty Global.

“The board is feeling bullish on TV and we are looking to double down on those investments,” she said. “Right now TV is 20% of our business and we would like to increase that to go from $600 million to $1 billion in next few years.”

As Lionsgate expands its TV production, Stern said they would be placing more emphasis on non-scripted fare, having acquired Pilgrim Studios and hiring a senior executive to oversee the expansion of non-scripted programming.

But she stressed that they would continue to take a portfolio approach, pitching projects to a wide range of outlets—broadcast, OTT and cable networks.