During an Emerging Studios panel at the ATX Television Fest, TV executives from several smaller independent studios — Entertainment One, Blumhouse, Annapurna and Miramax — discussed competing with major independent studios like Sony TV and Warner Bros TV as well as with vertically integrated studios like 20th TV, Universal TV, CBS TV Studios and ABC Studios.

One of the big takeaways was that the material is key to combating the obstacles faced by smaller companies.

Maggie Boyd

“The challenge is a lot of the buyers (networks, streamers, etc) would prefer not to have independent studios,” said Pancho Mansfield, President, Global Scripted Programming, eOne. “It’s a very competitive business. We need to have something that they have to have and that’s material.”

Said Miramax TV president Lauren Whitney: “Our place and our security come from having an IP and having ideas that are special and that people want. As long as we have those and we control them, we continue to have a place in the business.”

For Marci Wiseman, co-president of television at Blumhouse, an important component for competing in the market is having a strong brand.

“In a universe where channels are meaningless to the viewers and consumers… the opportunity for independent studios is to be brand-focus,” she said. “It really helps to have a value proposition to the buyers that they can’t source internally.”

Also helpful is if you have the capital, said Whitney. “Part of what we have to do as we’re nascent and building is we have to pay more than the other guy,” she said. “We have to pay more money upfront. We have to talk about how doing business with us makes more points for a show valuable later on.”

When asked about how overall deals like the Ryan Murphy/Netflix one can affect business for these smaller entities, Wiseman said, “For [Blumhouse], we have a really strong interest in working with creators and filming who want to bet on building their business. What we really want to do is create tools for filmmakers who want to be entrepreneurs and want to own something and not just get a big payday and work for somebody else.”