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End Game star Shawn Doyle is very close to a returning to his role as Russian chess grand master-turned detective, according to Lionsgate president of worldwide television and digital distribution Jim Packer. If the deal is sealed it will be down to the power of Hulu and the social buzz the show’s first season has created since it launched on the platform earlier this year.
Packer, who sold the series to Hulu and has championed the show’s re-commissioning, told The Hollywood Reporter that Hulu is “very close” to giving a green light to a second series, which would be both good news for the show’s fans as well as an indication of the role the new digital players like Hulu are beginning to have on funding original content.
“If I am able to pull this deal off then I am going to have a season two order from an on-demand platform in the US. In effect they become the originating broadcaster,” said Packer. That is an interesting development not only for End Game but for Lionsgate and for Endemol, which have the international distribution rights to the show. End Game may be a difficult international sell to broadcasters, but with 24 to 48 episodes it becomes a much more attractive.
Packer and others at the MipTV programming market in Cannes this week is very interested in how the digital players like Hulu, YouTube and Netflix are starting to play a bigger role in original production. Hulu has committed $500 million to content this year and Netflix, which is a co-producer on Lillyhammer, starring The Soprano‘s Steven Van Zandt, announced the sale of the series to French broadcaster AB Groupe.
YouTube has also started the European roll-out of a strategy of offering advances to producers willing to launch new channels on the Google-backed online video site. The channel strategy began last year in the U.S. with 100 channels backed by a reported $100 million investment. Both FremantleMedia and Shine Media have already committed to YouTube channels in the U.S. In Europe, YouTube is reportedly focusing on the U.K. Initially, with ambitions to financially support the rollout of 20 channels backed by £10 million of seed money.
YouTube’s head of digital programming Jed Simmons, who spoke on a panel at MIPTV, has used the MIPTV market to meet with independent production companies interested in pitching for the channels.
“The digital companies are starting to play a bigger role in the content creation side of the business and I see that as a very good thing for our business,” said Packer.
On Hulu, End Game was lighting up the social networks threads, said Packer, and it was in the top 10 Hulu dramas several times. “There users have responded and they are listening.”
End Game cost close to $2 million per episode for the first series on Canada’s Showcase and Packer is convinced that he can produce a “network quality show” through creative use of locations, subsidies and international distribution pre-sales.
Added Packer: “It’s kind of a travesty to have a show good enough to get a Gemini Award in its first year and then win a digital Emmy here at MipTV and not have it get recommissioned.”
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