Sunday 22 September 2019

Virgin seeks out international partners to help fund drama shows amid boom in streaming

 

'Malone also said Virgin is focusing more on drama. He pointed to the drama series Blood, which has been commissioned for a second series' Stock Image: PA
'Malone also said Virgin is focusing more on drama. He pointed to the drama series Blood, which has been commissioned for a second series' Stock Image: PA
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Virgin Media Television is seeking to produce content which will find an international audience as streaming services become more popular, according to Bill Malone, the broadcaster's director of content.

It is currently focusing on developing formats which can be sold internationally. American broadcaster A&E Networks has partnered with Virgin to develop a format called Generation Dating.

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The concept is based around different generations taking control of one another's dating lives. Coco Productions is making the show.

"This is a programme that would have worked for Virgin in a limited way and had a limited lifespan," Malone said. "The ambition now is to partner international distributors of scale who bring money to the table and expertise.

"In a multi-platform world, we are not just talking about free-to-air, disposable TV that's over and gone in a second.

"We're in a world now where we are looking for longer-lifespan, international quality. Stuff that will sell internationally that will live on a streaming service, be it our own or another one."

Malone also said Virgin is focusing more on drama. He pointed to the drama series Blood, which has been commissioned for a second series.

"We have been quite strategic in how we invest our finance," he said. The first series cost €4m, about half of which was funded by local finance, with the remainder coming from international backers.

"With very little, we now have four dramas being announced in this season's launch," said Malone. They are a two-part finale to Red Rock; Blood series two; a co-production with Channel 5 called The Deceived; and six-part series Darklands.

Virgin Media is often criticised for not having enough Irish content on its channels, which Malone has rejected.

TV3 does not disclose how much is spent on independent productions but Malone said that the value of the drama alone would be €8m, with no Exchequer support.

It accesses the Broadcasting Authority's Sound and Vision Fund, which comes from the licence fee, however.

RTÉ spent just over €40m on independent productions in 2018, which was around half the amount that it spent before the crash. It too is increasingly turning to co-productions as a way of funding projects.

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