Indie MarVista surfs to new challenges
EmptyWith media behemoths controlling the bulk of worldwide program production as well as traditional and emerging broadcast outlets, you would think that the little independent operator would be as dead as the dodo bird.
Just as some long ago asteroid pounding into the Earth did away with the dinosaurs, deregulation -- not just in the U.S., but in other countries as well -- decimated the small army of independent producers and distributors that once roamed the big international TV markets.
But a handful still remain, and one at least has a tale of triumph to tell. MarVista Entertainment this week unveiled a slew of international clearances for its hourlong primetime surfing drama "Beyond the Break." It was a real coup to bring this expensive show -- lensed in Hawaii -- to a second season and to ratchet up serious worldwide licenses. These include a pan-Asian feed on Star World.
Michael Jacobs, president of the Los Angeles-based company, said he believes that in today's media environment MarVista is an "anomaly."
"We are an independent completing in a studio world," he says. "But we have a series that is hot right now and is competing for very desirable time slots on major terrestrial broadcast outlets. There are very few one-hour shows that I know of that can compete in the primetime market place -- so yes, I do think that makes us an anomaly these days."
Jacobs, whose company also has a healthy slate of movies, believes there is room in the international marketplace for an independent hour that could be sold with a guaranteed number of episodes.
One of the problems facing international broadcasters today is the increasing amount of series cancellations early in the season on U.S. networks. Broadcasters in other countries are growing increasingly concerned by the trend and say they are too often left with just a handful of episodes of a show for which they had high hopes.
Jacobs came up with the concept of a younger-skewing hour that followed the adventures of four girls who chase the dream of becoming world-renowned surfers. "Break" ultimately was created by Brookwell McNamara Entertainment's David Brookwell and Sean McNamara ("That's So Raven," "Even Stevens"). MarVista and BME serve as co-producers for the series with MTV Networks' the N.
MarVista is handling worldwide distribution.
"To be able to offer 13 completed episodes is of course an advantage today," says Jacobs, who is headed to MIPTV this month with guarantees on another full season of the series. He adds that the company now is looking to develop more hours and that he hopes to have details ready for MIP. "We have dedicated a lot of time and resources to developing the hour business as an independent. Movies are great for stations, but when you have a successful hour it pushes the continuity of the network."