Red Touch Media had the opportunity to partner with Pact/UK Indies at MIPCOM this year, and we couldn’t be more excited. Just this morning we interviewed Pact President John McVay about his company’s booming business, their exciting new projects and all things content.
How did the relationship between PACT and Red Touch Media develop?
We like working with companies that are fun, professional, that have a bit of vigor and life about them. I met Wayne and I just thought, great, these are our sort of people. Pact gets approached by a whole range of different people, but I only like working with people who resonate with our brand. There are lots of dull and boring people that probably have more money and would like to give us more sponsorship type stuff, but I’m not really into that. I like people that create a bit of buzz. We’re in a creative industry and want to work with people who have the same sort of mindset.
What can people expect from going to the Pact booth this year?
MIPCOM has become the big meeting of the year, so I think there’s a lot of pent up business that’s been waiting for it to come. The Pact stand, as always, is one of the busiest British stand. We’ve made it an open stand so that anyone can see in and see how busy it is. That’s actually part of our branding so you get that word of mouth. You get people saying, “Have you seen how busy that stand is?” We always expect lots of people from all over the world – Chinese, Koreans, Russians, Poles, Iranians, you name it. It’s not just one thing or one area of work because the companies we work with cover so much.
What are some of Pact’s goals for MIP?
To survive? Our main goal is to deliver great service and a great time. We set up environments and opportunities and relationships. We facilitate. That’s sort of broadly what we do in all of our international work. We find ways into market and find the right people in the market while structuring opportunities. We’re always looking to build up new relationships that create new opportunities. So what we really want out of Mip is happy producers, and happy people who have made money. And to get some sleep! I’ve been coming to this market for over 20 years. I have two rules at Cannes. Sleep when you can, and eat when you can!
How would you explain what Pact does to someone who doesn’t know?
Do you know what the AA is? It’s the Automobile Association. They come and fix your car when it breaks down. We’re a bit like the AA service for independent producers. When they’re in trouble we help them out. We are a professional services organization that provides everything from advice about contracts to individual contracts for hiring talent – writers, actors, directors, or musicians. It’s what’s called in the UK, a trade association. A trade association normally represents the commercial interests of a particular sector. We are the trade association for British producers from TV, children’s animation and digital. We also lobby. So we are also a political organization that represents the interests of our members to UK and European government. We’ve been pretty successful at that over the past 15 years or so. We give a voice to producers when they feel that they can’t say anything because they’re too small or it would be difficult for their business. We shout loud. We punch above our weight. We’re quite small in terms of people but we are always sat at the top table in terms of anything to do with the industry in the UK. We’re at the top table whether it’s industrial things or political things.
Who are some of Pact’s most influential partners?
Influential is a bit of a moveable feast in our business because I’ve seen companies having a really tough year, and then the next year they have a global hit and suddenly they’re very influential. We treat everyone pretty much the same. Which means that we provide the same love, attention and care whether you’re a big guy like Endemol or Zodiac, or a new startup. I have a rule called the Beatles/Mark Zuckerburg rule which is I don’t know who the next Beatles might be. And I don’t know who the next Mark Zuckerburg will be. So that’s how we approach everyone. I’ve seen people go from zero to hero in a year. No one knows who will come up with a hit and it’s a hits driven business. There are really no barriers to success. It’s just your own creativity, timing, execution and the right relationships.
Do you do any content marketing? How?
Pact is a B2B company so all of the things we do are about promoting at our stand – our literature, our promotions, our UK Indies app, our TV Commissioner’s app. So we do a lot of that. But that is very much B2B. We don’t go anywhere near consumers. Partly because I don’t think they’re interested. They just want content. We focus on the business opportunities because it makes members money. And if they make money, they pay us more money. And when they make less money, they pay us less money! So we’re always incentivized. We’re commercially aligned to the interests of our members. One of the hardest things when I’m recruiting people is to get people who have empathy for what our guys have to do, because it’s a really tough life being an independent producer, particularly when you’re starting off. It’s normally just you, or one other person with a laptop in Starbucks trying to get development and money and relationships.
I try to bring staff out to the market so they can actually see what the real world is like instead of sitting in our office, dealing with things over email and the phone. That creates more of an understanding when you go back. It’s a competitive market and it’s changing all the time, so we’ve always got to be slightly in front of our members, always looking around the corner. That’s why I launched our international strategy 8 years ago and now we’ve got relationships all across the globe. The members love it. We’re bringing them into new markets, to new buyers, new sources of finance and the global television industry is the world’s biggest content industry now. It’s bigger than film, games, publishing, all put together. So there’s a lot of opportunity out there and I’ve always had a philosophy of follow the money! If the money’s out there, go and find it and slot our guys into it.
What are some of the biggest challenges that Pact faces?
There’s not some single big thing. I think there’s an ongoing issue involving global distribution being controlled by fewer and fewer people. Being global, you can kind of bypass local competition issues. We’re starting to see global networks emerging that are very aggressive, very rights hungry. I think that’s a long-term issue that we’re looking into. How do we respond to that? How do we make sure that in our territory and potentially in other territories that the rights and interests of producers can be properly protected? That’s the biggest long-term issue that we’re looking at just now. The global recession will be the next one. The last recession had a marked effect on margins, profitability and sustainability. We can’t do anything about that, it ripples through everything. As an organization we’re in a good place financially where we can survive that even if our member’s revenues go down significantly.
What exciting new projects are in the works?
We’re about to launch our Export Bible, which is a massive undertaking we’ve done with KPMG. In it we’ve basically analyzed 50 key global territories in terms of key buyers in the market, all the regulations around product placement sponsorship, soft money, tax credits etc. Say I met you, and you’re from Hungary and you want me to produce something with you. I sort of have to believe everything you’ve told me about the Hungarian market. But you might not be telling me everything or you may not be right about what you’re telling me. So we wanted to create a resource in order to help facilitate co-production and co-financing so that our guys could see how those markets are structured, what’s available, how things are done etc. This makes it so that when you’re sitting down, you can search Hungary. And all of the information about Hungary will pop up. It means you might be able to structure a better deal with your partner because you can actually go check all of the information out in English. That means that in your meetings you will come across as more knowledgeable which means you might be able to structure your project better. We provide the knowledge and then it’s up to the producers to work out how to use it.
We’ve got another phase we’re working on that involves structuring a resource like a pathfinder for co-production. So it’d be sort of like a if you do A, do B. If you don’t do A, you might do C. It won’t fit every unique situation but it could be a very useful tool to help guide people. We’re doing that just now and underneath each bit of that will be a number of contracts and other applicable information. That will probably end up being an app. On our international side we’re moving a lot of our services and knowledge into apps.
How do you think content will be primarily consumed 10 years from now?
I think people will consume content on the best thing that they can get access to, whatever that technology is. Actually, I think because generally people are working longer and harder now than our parents and also people aren’t guaranteed a pension like our parents, people are time-poor. The thing is, it’s not so much what people do with the technology. I sort of think technology is irrelevant now. People want what the technology gives them. People don’t sit around talking about the coding on an iPhone or a tablet, they talk about the apps, the things they want to do with their life through their device. It’s a sort of an old and often hackneyed phrase, but content is king and will still be king. We all love to hear a story. Right? There’s something built into human beings about stories. We need stories. It’s part of how we socialize. It’s part of what makes us human. It’s part of what makes us connect emotionally with other people. You know, from the age of when you were a baby, sitting on your mum’s lap and she read you your first story. That appetite never goes away. And the stories have changed and maybe how you’re delivering stories and how those stories become more interactive have changed, but it’s still basically storytelling. If you look at stories, most follow the classic Greek or Shakespearian structure. So until we become robots and change, I think human being dictate what we like, not technology. There’s something about humans, about how our brains are wired that need and thrive on it.
Do you think that good content can actually motivate people to create better technology?
Absolutely. I’ve got three teenage boys and they’ve grown up with all of this digital technology, but mostly computer games. They follow people who do CGI for games the way I used to follow bands. They know who they are, what studios they work for and what stuff they do. They know the artists and background artists on the games. I think great content does get people involved. I was told years ago that people wouldn’t want to work in television anymore, it was all going to be digital. Absolute rubbish. Kids are still queuing up to work in television because it’s fun and creative. You look at things like Game of Thrones or Sherlock or whatever and they’re brilliant. Why not have a career in a brilliant industry? It’s much better to work on a television set than to work in a dark room doing coding. It’s a bit more exciting. It’s showbiz! It’s the entertainment industry!
Finish this sentence: When you’re done reading this you should…
Go and watch a great television program with your family.