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Interview: RTÉ's Edel Edwards Spots Current Trends In TV Sales
01 Oct 2012 : By Steve Cummins
Edel Edwards
Edel Edwards is the manager of television programme sales for RTÉ having joined the broadcaster from ITV in the UK.

What’s the most recent RTÉ show you’ve sold internationally?
We represent a large number of hours so we are constantly in discussion or in negotiation with broadcasters. To name one, we have just closed two deals on the series ‘From Here to Maternity’, one with UKTV and one with Discovery for their Central and Eastern European feed.

How did you get to your current position with RTÉ?
I had worked with ITV Global Distribution in the UK for six years prior to joining RTÉ. When RTÉ were looking to develop their international sales it was the perfect opportunity for me to take my experience from ITV and move back home.

How in-demand is Irish-made content at international markets?
The demand is generally not for specific Irish-made content (although Irish animation is the exception) it is for good well made content regardless of where it originates from. In saying that if broadcasters are looking for Irish specific content, particularly across the Arts genre they know to come to RTÉ.

What is the most positive and negative thing international buyers have had to say about Irish content?
On the positive side and across all of our genres international buyers will regularly refer to our high production values. The most common negative in the context of international sales is that quiet simply it is too Irish, in that international audiences will not identify with it, however, this can be said of any country’s home produced programmes as statistically fewer than 10 per cent of domestic programmes travel.

What’s been your easiest show to sell internationally?
It is impossible to name check one show, it is easier to say which genre is easiest to sell and in the current market for us, for finished programmes, it is drama and lLifestyle.

Do deals generally get done at events such as MIPCOM?
Yes, often the conversation starts at the previous market, screeners and programme information are dispatched and the deal is finalised when you next meet. As well as closing deals though the markets are very much about networking, building new relationships and maintaining existing ones.

What types of shows sell well, & in what territories?
Again for us it is drama, lifestyle and some of our observational documentaries. Ultimately our key territories are English speaking territories; however, RTÉ programmes have been dubbed in to Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Swedish and Russian.

Looking specifically at the UK, at the moment there are 22 RTÉ programmes currently under licence in the UK across drama, lifestyle and factual genres.

What kind of cut does the production company get out of a sale?
It depends on the production model, what other partners are involved and whether the production is fully or partially funded.

Are Irish-developed TV formats performing well?
Yes. It is definitely an area to watch and an area that has huge potential for growth. Key distribution partners including Warner Bros and Fremantle to name a few are launching some of RTÉ’s recent Format Farm projects at MIPCOM. Sony has already secured a deal on ‘The Takeover’. Nordic Rights Group are launching the format of ‘Dirty Old Towns’ and DRG are launching ‘D.I.Y Brides’. We are very excited to see what the reaction to them will be at the market.

Has there been any Irish show that has sold so well, it surprised you?
It was a while ago but Wildfire Films made a beautiful documentary called ‘Walking the Dog’, where the camera followed three very different characters and their unique relationships with their dogs. Realistically you would not expect a one-off half hour documentary about walking dogs in the Phoenix Park to sell, however, it sold to France, Germany and Austria (ARTE), Australia (SBS) and Finland (YLE).

What current trends can you spot in terms of sales?
Drama sales have made a strong comeback and RTÉ dramas have been broadcast in a huge number of territories in recent years. There is also a growing demand for adaptation of scripted formats. The current or continuing trend across the factual genre is observational docs, think uniforms ie. police officers, firemen, doctors, nurses, soldiers….and of course, formats, everyone is looking for the next big thing.

How closely do you work with commissioning editors in terms of working out what might sell internationally and what might not?
The gem is when the subject matter appeals to both the domestic and international audience. We work very closely with all of the commissioning editors, across each of the programme genres, from the beginning of the production process where we can assess the international potential of projects.

One thing buyers should know about you is…
At MIPCOM, if you pop by the stand (02.28/02.30) on Tuesday evening there is a glass of Baileys with your name on it!


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