The Crown-Maker: Andy Harries Masterclass

Using a talking dog toy as a prop in one of his pitches in his early career, may not have won him the pitch, but it certainly got people talking! And so indeed they still are.

The choice of Andy Harries from Left Bank Pictures to present the Informa TBI Masterclass was inspired. Not only has been responsible for one of the most popular and successful SVOD drama programmes of all time, but he has been instrumental kick-starting the UK scripted revolution in TV Production – heralding its so called ‘golden age.’ Who better than him to comment on the current entertainment landscape and inexorable growth of the ‘streamers.’

Following a quick run through of his career from Newspaper journalist to Company CEO, we saw a clip of his latest TV project AMC/ITV ‘s Quiz, a drama based on the original ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ format with Chris Tarrant. This role was played with great realism by Michael Sheen with the aid of brilliant make up. Something to look forward to this Spring for sure.

He firstly examined the global market for TV . Flying out to LA every 6 weeks for pitches and meetings, he can’t help but see its dominance as largest player in the global market place. He points out the UK viewership for Netflix doesn’t make up a vast portion of the streamer’s global audience. With recent changes, Netflix are releasing global viewership figures (albeit snippets) of its shows, yet Ampere Analysis estimated Netflix UK subscribers would hit 10m in Q1 2019. Harries was clear that it puts things into perspective, especially where the big budget productions are concerned – its all about scale.

Showing true patriotism, he still felt the UK made the best TV in the world and producers were now waking up to how best to exploit that advantage developing lucrative partnerships with the streamers and the like.

He drew comparisons between the streamers work and the large US Studios. ‘When a show goes up on Netflix particularly these days, it is all about the first week or two. If you don’t hit it in the first week or two, you are pretty dead. Television is becoming like the film business – it’s like [the importance of] the opening weekend.” He also felt there would be inevitable consolidation between all the new streamers: Apple +, Disney Plus, HBO Max and the like.

He said with hindsight, perhaps he sold Left Bank a bit early in its development but it certainly helped to get him in the room for those important and crucial Netflix meetings. He felt privileged to have been hitched to their ‘fast moving wagon. ‘

And the results are self-evident. The business has grown from 8 to 42 people with dozens of new projects in development. He admitted he generally likes to make programmes that he enjoys and relate to events in his own life. He explained that Netflix’s WhiteLines (yet to be aired) was set in Ibiza where he has had a holiday home for many years and Quiz, related to his early years in the TV business at Granada/ITV. He is now more focused on setting up new projects and negotiating with partners and has a trusted team he can rely on to do the rest and develop other ideas. With an average of over 500 new dramas being aired a year, it’s important to be distinctive and work with talented people he said.

Amongst many other topics he talked abut the growth of shorter form programming (8-part are the new 10-part series for Netflix ) and also showed sympathy with the BBC for the position -they find themselves in and possible loss of license fee income. The BBC is at the heart of the Creative industries and its position needs to be safeguarded. He said it was vital for “keeping our creative industries as relevant and successful as they are.”

With the kind of cheques he is receiving from Netflix, he could certainly disappear to a Caribbean Island, but the signs are – he’s going nowhere any time soon…