Big money from the small screen

skills for publishing

This is a guest post from Tom Chalmers, Managing Director at IPR License.

For many publishers and authors, the Willy Wonka style gold ticket can often be perceived as that all elusive film or, now arguably even more high profile, TV rights deal. There is a long history of successful fictional book to film adaptations. In recent years we’ve seen titles such as Life of Pi, Gone Girl, Cloud Atlas, World War Z plus The Twilight and Hunger Games saga’s to name but a few.

On the TV front, the relatively recent transformation in the way many people watch TV via an influx of on-demand, subscription and streaming service providers has also worked to galvanise the book to TV rights arena. With many high profile series such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Masters of Sex and even the UK’s Call the Midwife proving to be smash hits, producers all over the world are searching for more original content than ever, with much of this still stemming from the book world.

However, there is growing evidence that the film and TV world is looking beyond fictional titles for potential inspiration. For example, earlier in the year there was frenzied speculation that Brad Pitt’s production company had edged out George Clooney to win the film rights to the book Law of the Jungle, by Bloomberg Businessweek senior writer Paul Barrett.

Other high profile deals in recent times involve Star Wars director J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot teaming with Warner Bros. TV to buy rights to Tavis Smiley’s 2014 book, Death of a King. In addition, The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower not only debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list but also closed a film/TV rights deal with Trigger Street, Kevin Spacey’s production company (House of Cards, Captain Phillips, The Social Network).

Of course, it’s well known that many optioned TV/film deals never actually make it onto the big or small screen but that’s not really the point. The real question is will we continue to see more non-fiction rights being snapped up by a variety of TV and film producers? And more pertinently are non-fiction publishers currently in the best position to not only showcase their key titles but to also secure the best possible deal from some very deep pockets?

This remains to be seen, but it’s clear that this is a hot rights and licensing area at the moment and one that all content publishers should be keeping a close eye on.


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