€1bn opportunity to make Ireland a global creative hub for streaming

3 Sep 2015

Ireland has the opportunity to be a global hub for streaming content, says Stephen McCormack, TV producer and entrepreneur.

Current spending on independent film and TV production could be leveraged from the current €200m a year to over €1bn to capture new online entertainment trends driven by Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Stephen McCormack of Straywave.com – the production company behind TV shows like Fade Street, Love Clinic and Celebrity Salon – is the organiser behind Ireland’s first international TV/tech summit, MediaCon, which takes place next week (8 September) in the Mansion House.

The event is being held with the support of RTÉ, the Irish Film Board, Dublin City Council, Enterprise Ireland and Fáilte Ireland.

He says that, instead of budgets going into specific silos, Irish-made film and TV programmes should be oriented towards the massive opportunities being driven by the explosion in streaming content.

‘We need to be thinking outside the TV box – how do we make Ireland a creative hub for global on-demand TV content’

He said that Netflix’s investment in Netflix-produced content like House of Cards is heading north of US$5bn, and cited Amazon Prime’s US$250m deal with former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond.

“This is where TV and entertainment budgets are going. Not only that, we are now seeing a trend in user-generated content where YouTube creators are earning more than TV stars,” he said, pointing to YouTube stars like Pewdiepie and Smosh.

This, he said, is hitting traditional TV brands like Viacom’s MTV and Nickelodeon.

“We need a new vision for funding TV and film content that is similar to how venture capital funds are raised and leveraged in the tech industry.”

It’s prime time for streaming media

McCormack said that, when you combine the Irish Film Board’s annual budget of around €19m and RTÉ’s €80m spend on independent content with other forms of spending, the annual spend on filmed content in Ireland is around €200m.

However, if the industry orients itself more towards opportunities as streaming media begins to dominate the audio-visual landscape, savvy film and TV content producers could tap into the budgets being created by Netflix, AOL and Amazon Prime, to name a few.

“We have productions like Peaky Blinders and Vikings filmed here, but what we need to do is create an atmosphere where shows can be devised and developed from Ireland and sold on the global stage.”

This realisation, he said, has already sparked movement. RTÉ has appointed Michelle Spillane as head of global. Philip Kampf from VIP has licensed The Hit to Warner Brothers internationally, and Big Mountain Productions has created products like The Genealogy Roadshow. In recent weeks, Brown Bag Films –creators of successful animated shows that appear on BBC, Disney and Nickelodeon – announced 50 new jobs after being acquired by 9 Story Media Group.

‘There is a revolution happening where players like Netflix are prepared to spend €5bn on content a year’

“Irish producers are getting very savvy at selling to the international stage.

“We have all of this homegrown talent – we can write, we can make music, we can film and we have beautiful scenery – all the right ingredients. There’s no reason why we can’t do this.”

He said that, because of on-demand content from players like Netflix and Amazon Prime, people’s viewing habits are drifting away from linear TV.

“There is a revolution happening where players like Netflix are prepared to spend €5bn on content a year. There are new ways of thinking emerging, and Amazon Prime’s deal with the former Top Gear presenters is a calling card to allow it to expand easily into 25 countries in addition to the five or six it currently serves.

“We are at a unique moment in Ireland, where key film production executives are thinking internationally.”

To capture this emerging opportunity, McCormack recommends finding ways to leverage the current €200m a year invested in filmed content and growing it to €1bn annually.

He says models similar to those employed in the tech industry should be adopted.

“Hollywood doesn’t use Hollywood money to produce Hollywood movies. It puts seed money in and other people finance the movies.

“We need to be thinking outside the TV box – how do we make Ireland a creative hub for global on-demand TV content.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years