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14th TDF: Market Talks 16/03 (3/17/2012)


Market Talks is a new venture of the Thessaloniki Doc Market. The last Market Talks event took place on Friday 16, 2012 at the Excelsior Room of Electra Palace Hotel in the framework of the 14th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival, with the Head of Acquisitions at SKAI TV, Elpida Kallinteri as the speaker.
For a start, Mrs. Kallinteri presented the general profile of SKAI TV channel. “We are a TV channel that belongs to the private sector and its incomes derive from advertisement. Four years ago, anyone asked about our channel’s program, would answer that SKAI is mainly a documentary channel. During the past few years this has changed, as due to the financial crisis and all the relevant factors, we were forced to form a more information-centered program, based on news broadcasts and informative programs in order to meet the audience’s needs. Now the channel has an informative character. As for the documentaries, we come second, ERT (National Greek Television) being the first, in regard to the number of documentary films we broadcast”.
Mrs. Kallinteri explained the way in which SKAI purchases documentaries and said: “We buy from big companies, from sales agents and sometimes from independent production companies or producers and directors, so we have a rather wide range of collaborators. With the bigger companies we make agreements called ‘output’ or ‘volume’ in which an exclusive type of sale is defined for the country or, in the case of BBC, a particular priority for a specific type in reference to its catalogue’s variety. At the same time, the agreement also includes the purchase of a documentary ‘package’ and not a one-by-one selection. In this way, the more documentaries we buy, the more their cost per hour is reduced. This is what the companies aim at; however, such a thing may possibly not serve in terms of film content, as the channel might not need so many documentaries on the same content. For that reason, as well as financial ones, we no longer follow this practice”.
The speaker next referred to the procedure the channel follows in order to track down documentaries and production companies: “We visit TV markets, we arrange meetings with production companies and sales agents and we attend special buyers screenings, such as BBC’s. It’s hard negotiating a certain price with a single director for a single documentary. There would be no comparison between this price offer and the price offer of documentary packages”.
Mrs. Kallinteri discussed the way a TV channel’s broadcast program is planned. “I think there are many professionals in this field who don’t consider the way a TV program should be planned and run. In Greece, the TV season lasts from October to June, so, whatever we want to back and promote, we have to broadcast it during that period. This varies from country to country; in Greece, however, prime time lies between 20.00 and midnight. This prime time zone, however, is not always the question. What matters is to match the broadcasts to the availability of a certain TV viewer target group, young people, men, women etc. There is a whole team looking to match each broadcast to the best possible screening time. Another factor that forms the TV program is competition, of course”, she explained. Mrs. Kallinteri underlined that programs containing sex or violence are by default broadcasted by a TV channel after midnight. She also added that the goal is for viewers to stay tuned even after a certain program has finished, so as to watch the one that follows; for that to be achieved, the program flow should be thoroughly examined.
Referring to the topic of the language a documentary is in, Mrs. Kallinteri pointed out that with its mother-tongue being number one, Greek TV audience, is more familiar with the English language next and her advice was that a voice-over in English would be very helpful to non English-speaking documentaries as far as our country’s market is concerned. “In Greece, Greek documentaries do better on TV. They should also be commercial and powerful, backed by thorough research and eye-catching during their first minutes. TV viewers are difficult, as they have the ability to turn their TV off or change channel any time”, said the speaker. She also noticed that documentaries on topics related to Greece are well-accepted by the audience, whereas ones with a wider topic are easier to be embodied to the program. The speaker explained that, from time to time, as far as documentaries are concerned, SKAI follows routes that differ from the referred guidelines. Nonetheless, at the moment the channel doesn’t have the luxury to persist on something that doesn’t work at once. “Given the period we find ourselves in, people are specifically interested in topics of the current reality”, she underlined.
Moreover, the speaker explained that filmmakers who aim at selling their films to TV channels should examine each channel’s profile, keep in mind its profile, as well as the length of their documentary. “Documentaries count for one TV broadcasting hour; that means they have to be approximately 45 minutes long. Documentaries that last 30 or 65 minutes are hard to fit into the program”, she underlined. Then she was asked about the crisis’ effects on the TV world and the market and Mrs. Kallinteri pointed out that TV advertisement has been reduced by about 65%, salaries’ reductions and employees dismissals have ensued, markets have shrunk a lot and the channel is now in ‘survival mode’. “In general, SKAI purchases from big companies at an about 60-70% rate and turns to smaller or independent companies for the rest”, she added.
At the end of the speech, one of the participants commented on the TVchannel’s choices, saying that the channel focuses on big commercial productions. Mrs. Kallinteri answered: “I expected such reactions. However, during the Documentary Festival, I have watched films for which I will make a purchase proposal”. On the same topic, another participant noticed: “There are many great filmmakers who are unaware of the way the market functions and this is to their detriment. This is the reason I find it useful for them to face reality”. Finally, Mrs. Kallinteri noticed that due to the financial crisis, Greek documentaries’ purchases are favored and said: “There are many things we can do with good documentaries and I think there is hope to make plans for the future”.

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