Next TV Summit: Lionsgate's Packer: No Template Yet for Digital Content Deals

Exec Says Golden Age of Distribution Means More Complexity

San Francisco -- Despite the rapid growth in sales of movie and TV content to over-the-top and subscription streaming services like Netflix, standard templates for doing these deals haven’t yet been established, according to James Packer, president of worldwide television and digital distribution, Lionsgate.

“There isn’t really any consistency,” in how those deals are structured and put together, he said at the Next TV Summit here on Sept 11. “It’s a lot of fun as you’re doing things for the first time.”

The proliferation of those platforms have opened up more opportunities than ever before, creating “a golden age of distribution,” Packer contended during an interview with Broadcasting & Cable editor in chief Melissa Grego.

But the complexity of taking advantage of those platforms is also changing the way distributors have to approach the market. Packer noted that when he started his career, the only outlet for TV programs was syndication.

Now they look at many windowing opportunities and are constantly challenged to come up with new and more flexible ways of moving their content through myriad outlets.

In China, for example, he said that the company had traditionally had a six-month delay to stop piracy. But that hadn’t worked and recently it decided to make some content available the next day, which touched off a bidding war.

“Piracy went down and we had a record sale for China,” he said.

Changing windows, though, has jumbled the process of tracking and exploiting rights and Lionsgate is in the process of hiring new people to manage those rights.

“It isn’t just a matter of tracking them,” he explained. “It’s opening up opportunities by letting us know when the rights are opening up so we can sell them.”

One of the big headaches of the new platforms is lack of data and the fact that Netflix and some other provide provide little information about the performance of programs and none about how other shows from other distributors have performed.

That makes it difficult to determine the value of those rights and complicates the process of selling Netflix original series because they can’t go to potential clients with ratings.

To get around that, Packer says they have in some cases put the show up on platforms like iTunes to give them some data on audience interest.

Looking forward, he also sees rapid growth in SVOD players internationally as Netflix and others roll out more international services and more local companies launch their own OTT offerings.

These local offerings might be launched by a broadcaster, which has a large library of local programming.

Packer won a Digital Leadership Award at the Next TV Summit, which was hosted by Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News.