LILLE, France — Germany’s Beta Group is a company for our challenged times, Moritz von Kruedener, Beta Group managing director told an audience at Series Mania’s Lille Dialogues on Thursday.
He also broke down Beta’s business model which takes elements which hark back to the past – a powerful, ultra connected territory-by-territory international sales apparatus combined with Beta’s biggest pivot in recent years: a move from picking up and selling finished shows into far larger production involvement, be its financial support or early upstream input on maximising a project’s international potential.
Beta Group and Series Mania has also scored heavily at this year’s festival with the first edition go Seriesmakers, a mentoring program for filmmakers making their TV creator debut.
“Distribution DNA, combined with our creative input is what production companies look to Beta for,” von Kreudener said.
Beta Group, as a sizzle model shown at Series Mania underscored, has been involved in some of the biggest productions of recent years: “Gomorrah,” “Berlin Babylon,” “The Pier,” “Sisi” and now “The Swarm.” The production-international sales model has always made sense on titles with large sales potential. But it makes all the more sense in the current industrial climate, von Kruedener argued on stage in Lille in the opening keynote to this year’s Lille Dialogues, interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Roxborough.
Owing over 30 production companies, Beta Group still aims, as the sizzle reel underscored, to “local content globally successful.”
Why is Beta pushing such a model when global streamers insist ever more, as seen at Series Mania this week, that they are making local series for local markets?
“I think we can see a kind of backwards development, the streamers concentrating again on local production,” said Kruedener.
Beta Group in contrast “partners with producers on content that can be very national, but which have the potential to travel internationally.”
Its model reflects dire market needs, Kruedener argued. “We all face a situation of increasing costs and public and private broadcasters’ decreasing budgets. There are also far less opportunities to go with one partner which takes worldwide on. A show. You have to combine resources in part by crossing borders, which creates a need to make more international shows than in the past,” he added. “This is a brilliant moment in time, with a great opportunity for those who are able to very flexibly combine very different elements from very different sources cross border over Europe.”
How can Beta Group help a show be more global in potential?
Production quality, and elements such as a big director or cast or big co-producer partners.
As for the story, Kruedener cited the case of “Estonia,” about Europe’s deadliest civil maritime disaster, the sinking of the MS Estonia off the shores of Finland on Sept. 28, 1994, which killed over 850 people.
“It was supposed to be a very local Scandinavian production but we found it had much broader potential which could be brought out just by changing a little bit the story, introducing people who didn’t know the story to what happened. Co-production also has a creative upside, allowing writers from different countries to collaborate, “something which has developed very quickly over the last few years.”
Also, “It’s very essential that the financial needs of partners doesn’t drive the production process,” said Kruedener.
“There can be a huge pressure from partners on an international show to include as many local elements as possible.”
“The Swarm,” which plays Thursday at Series Mania, escaped this, in that “the diversity of characters and locations was already set in the original novel. It was relatively easy to combine them. But this is where Beta steps in to try to buffer such interests, by convincing people that a production does not get better if you maximise local input,” Kruedener said.