In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 65


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65

Hot Lessons
Paul Robson of Medialease looks at the lessons to be learned from the demise of Soho post house Pepper
As one of the UK’s best-known postproduction companies, Pepper has its own special place in Soho folklore. Working on major TV dramas like Spooks, Life on Mars, Sherlock and Luther, it has employed, throughout its history, some of the best graders and online editors this country has ever produced. Unfortunately, while it is certainly famous for the quality of its work and its people, it is equally recognizable for going bust. Since being founded in 1999, Pepper has employed the services of insolvency practitioners on no less than three separate occasions, the most recent being earlier this month when the current owner, Future Film Group, announced that it is withdrawing from post-production and closing the doors. On the first two occasions, buyers were found. David Rubin & Partners is currently trying to find a buyer for the facilities and the equipment “in order to seek to maximise value for the creditors”. There is no obvious reason for Pepper not to be hugely successful after having three goes at it. This is my personal take on why. The first was down to timing. It was bloody awful. When they moved into Soho, they spent too much money on everything, just at the very time that drama commissioning as good as stopped in its tracks and the sound of an economic crash was rumbling in the distance. As a result, while the second generation of Pepper benefited, they were committed to paying for it in the long term. The most recent problems weren’t down to overspending. Future Film Group had great ideas. They wanted to take Pepper’s core TV drama work and mould it together with more feature film work that they would help to finance. That made sense. But what they didn’t or couldn’t do was ensure that all feature film producers that received funding from Future Film Group were then obliged to do their post at Pepper as a condition of getting that money. If it did happen, it didn’t happen often or quick enough. At the same time, the business was faced with continual losses that needed drastic action. Plus, there is another, industry wide, problem that they had to cope with: there are simply too many postproduction suites in Soho. With more and more producers doing basic editing and audio in-house, there simply isn’t enough work to go around. Unfortunately it looks like Pepper is one of the casualties of this trend. So can we learn anything from Pepper and the current state of the market? To start with, post companies need to cut their cloth accordingly. I wouldn’t look at fixed costs, such as staff or the building though. Those are tough to cut. It can cost as much to get out of rental and employment contracts as it can to keep them. And they can’t touch finance leases on equipment either. Asking to give half your kit back because you don’t need it that week will receive short thrift. But I don’t believe they have to have sushi flowing and the best of the best for clients all the time. If they look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves (as my grandmother used to rant on about). If post houses want to expand - and they haven’t won the lottery or found a wealthy philanthropist - I suggest they don’t bother with asking the high street banks for money. Other than one taxpayer owned bank they’re currently not lending to SME’s. Instead, post houses should seek out the finance companies that are technology-centric.These specialists are in the best position to exploit any banks that are lending.There are some. Ambitious post houses need to go to the funders with a balance sheet and explain, very clearly, why they want to expand into a certain area. The key things they need to explain are where they’re going to get the talent from and where they’re going to put the kit. The other consideration is surviving early on. The income from the expansion is not going to arrive for three to six months as it will take that long to get the income in. That’s where asset finance can help, as it means companies don’t have to fork out for the kit up front. To help with this, they may also want to look at their banking position, swapping an overdraft for a large invoice discounting facility for example, if the company’s invoice volumes merit this. This means that, rather than wait 60 or 90 days for money to be paid, they can get it when they need it, which is now. In my opinion, all of those things can help facility houses avoid becoming the next Soho casualty. Oh yeah, and a huge slice of luck. Top end post-production as we know it may be slowly dying, but there will always be a place for the specialist boutiques, the high-end drama houses and those companies that do large scale, quick turnaround shows. Why? Because they offer services that very few producers will ever be able to do themselves.

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of In Broadcast - July/August 2011

In Broadcast - July/August 2011
Contents
Whats New in Our Global Village
iPad The Game Changer
Outside Broadcasters Feel the Pinch
Innovative Camera Supports - Beyond the Tripod
IP-Based Remote Television Studio Control
Trilogy's Gemini - Pioneering the Use of IP in Broadcast Intercom
The Ears Have It: The Drive for Better Sounding Mobile Content
IBC Sneak Peak
Monitoring Systems For Today's Digital, Multiplatform Era
New Developments in Broadcast Test and Measurement
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Intro
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - In Broadcast - July/August 2011
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Cover2
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Contents
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Whats New in Our Global Village
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 5
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 6
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 7
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 8
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 9
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 10
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 11
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 12
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 13
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 14
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 15
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 16
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 17
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - iPad The Game Changer
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 19
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 20
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 21
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Outside Broadcasters Feel the Pinch
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 23
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 24
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 25
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 26
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 27
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 28
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 29
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 30
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 31
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Innovative Camera Supports - Beyond the Tripod
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 33
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 34
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 35
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 36
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 37
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - IP-Based Remote Television Studio Control
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 39
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Trilogy's Gemini - Pioneering the Use of IP in Broadcast Intercom
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 41
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 42
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 43
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - The Ears Have It: The Drive for Better Sounding Mobile Content
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 45
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - IBC Sneak Peak
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 47
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 48
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 49
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 50
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 51
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 52
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 53
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 54
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 55
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Monitoring Systems For Today's Digital, Multiplatform Era
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 57
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 58
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 59
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - New Developments in Broadcast Test and Measurement
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 61
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 62
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 63
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 64
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 65
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 66
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 67
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 68
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 69
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In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 71
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 72
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 73
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - 74
In Broadcast - July/August 2011 - Cover4
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