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Insights & rules to media financing highpoints at ATF/AFM

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SINGAPORE: There's nothing that attracts money more than money itself. As in any sphere, finance is of utmost importance in media too. In order to be a successful saleable product, the production plan for emotional, creative content has to be as rational and pragmatic as with any other product in order to attract financing.

Sponsored by Singapore's Media Development Authority and Investment New Zealand and organised by Reed Exhibitions as part of the ATF/AFM event, the Media Financing Forum held on 29 November at the Shangri-La at Orchard Road Singapore was attended by over 200 delegates comprising a fair sprinkle of financiers.

The panelists shared some insights into attracting the attention of media financiers and gave some thumb rules for producers seeking finance. The conference had two panel discussions:

The topic "Mystery" of Media Financing - Find the Money was moderated by Transpac Media Limited, USA, COO Patrick Murray.The panelists included Transpac Media Limited, USA Chairman Andrew Craissati, Imperial Capital Bank - Entertainment Finance (ICBEF), USA vice president - Portfolio Management Adrian Ward, Mega Media, Singapore managing director Jonathan Foo, RGM Holdings, UK Head of Film Financing Rodney Payne, Park Road Post, New Zealand director Michael Stephens.

The subject "Pitch" - What You Need to Know was also moderated by Patrick Murray and the panelists included Parallax Capital Management (Singapore) director Douglas Abrams, Bigfoot Entertainment (USA) CEO Kacy Andrews, Focus Films (Hong Kong) vice president, Film Productions & Acquisitions Elliot Tong and Ingenious Media PLC, UK director Judith Chan.

 

One point hammered was the importance of having a business plan and the necessity of 'skin in the game'. "Financiers like to see how much of 'own skin' has the producer put into the project" remarked ICB's Adrian Ward. "When a producer highlights how profitable investing in his project can be, we expect him to put in some of his own too," he added.

Other important criteria included association of known salable big names. "A big name or a reputed experienced professional attached to a project will definitely get us interested," stated Ingenious Media's Judith Chan.

Equally important was pre-sales and the reputation of the sales agent. "We don't expect the producer who has the entire production and creation responsibilities to focus on the sales. What we look for is strong sales partners and agents across regions so as to exploit the territories and bring in returns" remarked RGM's Rodney Payne.

Local hero Jonathan Foo, MD of Singapore based Mega Media shared some wonderful insights. Mega Media recently made a big splash with its $20 million tie up with Cablevision's Rainbow Media. Mega Media's hi-def factual programming will now be aired to 11 million homes in the US.

"There are a lot more people looking for money, then those that are offering it," remarked Foo. "In such a scenario, one has to differentiate oneself and try and attract the finance. And while pitching it is important to remember that things like quality cant be a selling point as that is an expected feature in any case. You need to put some money where your mouth is and have a global plan, especially for producers coming from places like Singapore where there is not a substantial enough local market."

Amongst the most common glitches that the financiers observed was the lack of a proper and rational business plan in most cases.

The panelists also enlightened the audience on the various kinds of finance available. Institutional funding involved a model where an entity such as bank lent money. The fees are generally upfront for such funding and there is no share in the backend.

Equity or co productions are an emerging trend now and involve investment of finance and resource by multiple partners and are a great way of spreading the risk and increasing the potential market size.

The panelists had a word of caution for those seeking soft money and grants as well as for producers who got in with high net worth individual 'Emotional' investors as these sometimes would end up in the producer having to sacrifice creative integrity.

The last line of advice as the day ended was - "Get your skin in and play the game. Make a business plan, try and hitch in big names and get the best sales agents. Completion bonds and a good lawyer add to the whole package."

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