MIPCOM: FremantleMedia Chief Talks Digital Expansion, Simon Cowell

Cecile Frot-Coutaz

Cecile Frot-Coutaz opens up about the shift towards tech and her company's soon-to-expire deal with the "X Factor" producer: "In 2013, we will be making more versions of every single one of [his] shows ... so there's still demand."

CANNES – Digital studios, distribution channels and online subscription services are occupying an increasing piece of consumers' video content consumption pie. With that in mind, FremantleMedia CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz cautioned that media companies ignore the burgeoning digital space at their own peril.

"You want to make a play and you want to make a play quickly," said Frot-Coutaz during a Media Mastermind keynote question-and-answer session on Monday at MIPCOM.

Among younger consumers most desired by advertisers, linear television consumption has fallen from four to two hours each day, observed Frot-Coutaz, while online consumption is on the rise to about 30 minutes each day. That shift will only become more pronounced as digital and SVOD players continue to enter the original programming space. It is the reason that Frot-Coutaz has made digital a priority since being named CEO of the company earlier this year, creating a Digital and Branded Entertainment arm that is fully integrated into the content and distribution units of the company.

"I really believe that in today's world, you cannot work in silos," said Frot-Coutaz when asked about the restructuring that saw multiple veteran and well-regarded executives exit the company. "I don't like big centers," she continued. "I don't like overhead. Times change; I also believe companies should change their structure every five years."

With a lineup of popular scripted, unscripted, children's programming and game shows (American Idol, The X Factor, Storage Wars, Family Feud) FremantleMedia is the most-viewed of any television producer on YouTube with 79.7 million monthly unique users in June of 2013 alone and over 4.5 billion views of its content globally in 2012. The company recently relocated its pet channel, ThePetCollective.tv, from YouTube to Blip's distribution channel. And Frot-Coutaz said the company will launch more specialized channels in lifestyle, fashion, food and cars. But she's also keen to grow the company's scripted output.

FremantleMedia's Australian drama Wentworth, a re-imagining of Prisoner, set ratings records when it bowed on subscription channel Foxtel last spring. And Frot-Coutaz predicted that in five years 50 percent of the company's revenue would come from scripted, up from 30 percent today. "Scripted is a brand-defining business and it builds a library."

She would not say much, however, about the company's soon-to-expire three-year deal with Simon Cowell's production company Syco, which produces British and U.K. versions of The X Factor as well as America's Got Talent and Britain's Got Talent. She dismissed a question about whether Cowell's impending fatherhood would be a distraction for the globetrotting producer and personality.

"Simon is very, very focused," said Fort-Coutaz. "His focus is not an issue."

She also downplayed the significance of the ratings erosion of Cowell's X Factor as well as once-juggernaut American Idol, which has been licensed in dozens of countries. "In 2013, we will be making more versions of every single one of those shows," said Frot-Coutaz. "So there's still demand."