Newen's Rodolphe Buet on Challenges for European Producers, Developing an "International Footprint"

Rodolphe Buet - Publicity - H 2020

The StudioCanal veteran also shares the TV production company's ambitions and the importance of developing its own original content.

Rodolphe Buet may be one of the few EFM attendees who would miss snowy Berlin in February. The newly appointed head of distribution at Newen, controlled by French media giant TF1 Group, is heading into his 15th Berlin market. Newen banners are behind such dramas as Versailles and Amazon’s French-language series Deutsch-les-Landes. It also owns production firms in Scandinavia and Canada’s Reel One. Buet spent more than a decade at StudioCanal, leading international distribution and marketing for film and TV and helping to turn Paddington into a billion-dollar franchise. After stints in Berlin and L.A., the animation buff is based in Newen’s Paris offices. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter three weeks into his tenure, Buet discussed Newen’s ambitions and the importance of developing its own original content.

Newen just announced Ringside Studios, a partnership with producer Gub Neal (The Fall) in the U.K. Why is this key?

We feel the areas of growth for us are definitely international, working with production companies rooted in their own territories and being able to develop great shows for local broadcasters and developing our international footprint and knowledge. The deal with Gub reflects our ambition to be very, very active in the English-speaking world and develop a real international product that can fit the expectations of English-speaking broadcasters in the U.K. and the U.S. We have a significant team in London with Reel One, but having Gub will strengthen our commercial presence.

Many European players are trying to break into the English-language market. Is there a risk of homogenizing content?

Every single territory has a specific way to tell stories. If you look at Nordic noir or Spanish or French productions, they are telling great stories, but with their own DNA, their own cultural background. Casa de Papel [Netflix’s Money Heist] was the first example of this fantastic worldwide success. It’s a great opportunity for a company like Newen that is active throughout Europe to match the expectations of foreign audiences. [Parasite] got the Palme d’Or in Cannes, the BAFTA, now the Oscar. It’s great, great news for international productions. At Telfrance, we currently have a project in development with [Sector 7 director] Kim Ji-hoon. So a focus specifically on Korean directors and the Korean market is a good opportunity.

As head of distribution for both TF1 and Newen, how will you bring the two closer together?

Right now, the way we are operating at TF1 in terms of distribution is through a partnership with [France’s] UGC. Sometimes we are co-producing and co-financing with other distributors. We rather prefer to find the right partners according to the project. So I would say it’s probably the best of both worlds — having control of both the production and the artistic development. But at this stage, the first challenge is making sure that all the production companies work together and then build up the sales and distribution tools that give us a chance to be much more efficient and get access to the key partners and broadcasters throughout the world.

What is the biggest challenge for European producers in the global market today?

It’s specifically a challenge to be able to attract new talent to make sure that we will be able to answer all the demand from traditional partners and new players. But it’s a challenge for all production companies, and it’s a fantastic challenge. A few years ago, it was finding financiers to produce and co-finance and develop shows. We are now at the opposite end. We need to develop talent and bring a new generation of writers, showrunners, actors and even consider new types of talent.

You were very involved in the acquisition of Paddington during your time at StudioCanal. Is it necessary to have big properties, and are you looking for similar opportunities at Newen?

One of the reasons the U.S. market is focused on IP is probably the marketing cost of releasing a new film or a new show. But we can manage in Europe to be more creative and address audiences while spending less on P&A than the American market. In terms of need, it’s probably less relevant. That said, if there were an IP with strong potential, we would consider it. But I’m convinced that developing our IP and developing our own assets is a much better long-term strategy. If you want IP, such as what Disney owns, it’s probably appropriate, but I’m relying much more on creation and new product rather than year after year exploiting the same brand. At some point we will experience fatigue from the audience. For us as a group, being able to operate in European territories, we can find a way to tell stories that are brand new and fresh.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 23 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.