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December 14, 2020 |

TBI Vision

TBI’s 2020 Wrap: BBCS’s Paul Dempsey; Argonon’s James Burstall; White Spark’s Briege Whitehead

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As a tumultuous year for the industry draws to a close, TBI talks to execs from all corners of the world to get their thoughts on the past 12 months and what the year ahead might hold. This is the second instalment of a five-part series, which will run every day this week.

Paul Dempsey

Paul Dempsey, President of Global Distribution, BBC Studios

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

There’s been so many great shows this year I’m going to bend the rules a bit. I didn’t have time to watch it first time round so took advantage of lockdown to catch up on Succession.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

That the ‘people first’ culture of our company was deep rooted and highly valued. It was tested by the events of the year… and passed!

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

How audience behaviour will evolve now that the dual worlds of linear and OTT are mainstream viewing options.

What keeps you awake at night?

Only the wellbeing of my family – never work!

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

The main markets will remain so, but I’m fascinated by the opportunity that affordable access to mobile data across Southeast Asia presents international content creators.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Talking about BBC Studios, we’re traditionally strong in premium drama and natural history and that will continue. I think it’ll also be a big year for science, history and scripted comedy.

James Burstall

James Burstall, CEO, Argonon

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

On Amazon Prime Video I have recently discovered Babylon Berlin, set in 1929, originally commissioned by Sky. It’s both lavish and gritty, multi-layered and complex, evocative and relevant – set in a world of political upheaval, this brilliant historical drama has lessons for the world today.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

Leaning into Covid-19, accepting, and being openly transparent about the challenges faced across both the business and wider sector, has helped forge extraordinary levels of collaboration and support. In times of fear, it has deepened our communications, relationships and networks which will sustain into the future when we emerge from this unprecedented period.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. It has never been more important and working together across the industry will be crucial to recovery, growth and attracting future investment.

What keeps you awake at night?

In the first few weeks of the Covid-19 crisis, I had countless sleepless nights! Fortunately, I have a great team around me which came together to face the existential threat – and the challenge of keeping our talented people working – with calm purpose. Whilst we remain alert, our decision to invest and grow out of the pandemic means that we are approaching the future with excitement rather than fear. Across the sector, we’ve seen incredible creativity, innovation and collaboration throughout 2020, and as new opportunities emerge, it gives me great hope for the future of our creative industries.

Which country/region do you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

A positive side-effect of the pandemic has been the opening up of the global production market by necessity. The limitations on movement have taken us to places we’ve never filmed before and introduced us to talented local producers. This has helped broaden our global production footprint and opened up new territories. There are far too many places to nominate!

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

I expect to see a bounce back across all genres as production capability returns, the ad market recovers and the hyper-growth of content players’ relentless investment continues upwards. As one of the hardest-hit genres in 2020, we know that there is a huge appetite and pent-up demand for scripted projects across the globe which will help supercharge the creative sector in 2021.

Briege Whitehead

Briege Whitehead, Creative Director, White Spark Pictures

What has been your favourite show of the year (that you haven’t been involved with)?

Raised by Wolves.

What has been the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in 2020 and why?

If 2020 has taught me nothing else, it is that plans can change overnight – and dramatically! Being flexible, adaptable and innovative is the only way to survive in our ever-changing industry.

What are you most excited to see (industry-related) in 2021?

Cross-pollination of new technology and creatives in our industry, particularly with respect to TV-VR.

What keeps you awake at night

My inbox, climate change and rapid changes of our understanding of the universe – and aliens! We’ve just been greenlit for an incredible new VR project – Beyond The Stars – and after spending so much time with astronomers working on the largest radio telescope in the world – I’m beginning to wonder what might be out there. Hopefully next year I’ll find out!

Which country/region to you expect to flourish on the global stage next year?

Southeast Asia.

Which genre is set to boom in 2021?

Non-scripted – and VR, of course. VR may just hold the key to getting people back into cinemas.

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