AFM: Not just American, not just film


It's called the American Film Market, but make no mistake -- the international television presence at the opening of AFM on Wednesday is probably bigger than it's ever been. In fact, the growing appetite of myriad TV buyers for titles and packages appears to be continuing to morph this movie market into a thriving place of business for the TV adjunct.

"Television buyers are playing a big role," says Jonathan Wolf, AFM managing director and executive vp at the Independent Film & Television Alliance. "We have cablecasters coming in and buying directly from the exporter, and we have theatrical distributors here looking at all media rights in specific markets -- so TV rights play a huge part in most if not all of the deals being done here."

Last year's AFM saw probably the biggest-ever presence of television buyers at the market, spurred in part by the growing number of U.S. channels dedicated to ethnic programming. That new sector spurred a mini-boom in foreign-language programming for American-based stations.

This year those buyers are back again, but there's also a major presence from specialty channels from around the world, including such major buyers as Showtime Australia, Germany's ProSieben and RTL, and Globo Brazil. There are TV buyers from Africa, Italy, Japan, the U.K., Spain and Turkey.

Wolf says that the TV buyer presence is "probably growing" this year, but with registration continuing throughout today and Thursday, the full extent of the increased presence won't be clear until the end of the market.

The fact is, Wolf says, big TV buyers are coming to AFM with different needs. Some are looking for the single big movie buy worth millions of dollars. Others are on the hunt for diverse film packages.

"But the reality is that TV rights are a huge part of the decision-making process at AFM. Distributors have to have a clear picture of what the TV rights are worth in territories they are doing business in," Wolf says.

Have TV buyers at AFM felt that they got the deals they wanted in past years? "All the TV buyers told us last year that they would be back. That was the general consensus," he says.

Other ancillary rights for movies springing out of new-technology customers also are playing a growing role at AFM, Wolf adds. In fact, AFM has acknowledged in the past that some of the biggest challenges facing the independent film and TV industry arise out of new technologies and new means of distribution.

But, Wolf says, while these rights are presenting new opportunities for independents, it remains a "slow process."