Full Plate: Rodolphe Buet heads distribution and marketing at STUDIOCANAL

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As STUDIOCANAL president, distribution and marketing, since March 1, 2015, CineEurope honoree Rodolphe Buet has been coordinating all sales efforts for the company with regard to theatrical acquisitions and productions, library holdings and TV programming. As we say in English, it’s a full plate.

In the position for which he’s being honored—moving product and raising awareness for Europe’s filmed entertainment and TV leader—Buet oversees STUDIOCANAL’s operations in Germany, Australia/New Zealand and China and works closely with teams in France and the U.K.

Buet spent an important part of his early career in the music industry, including music majors Warner Bros., EMI, BMG and the music-focused chain store FNAC, a giant in retail. In music, he says “I was confronted with [its] 360-degree transformation and challenges of the business, whether it was the move to digital or the emergence of live performances as a major revenue driver.”

Buet has been at STUDIOCANAL since 2005, when he began as sales and marketing director; from 2009 to 2012, he served as executive VP in charge of international distribution. During this period, he contributed to the successful integration of STUDIOCANAL UK and Germany and guided the distribution strategy for the company’s first international films, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Last Exorcism and Sammy's Adventures.

He was also actively involved in escalating the exploitation of STUDIOCANAL’s huge library and closing deals with Lionsgate for the U.S. and with Universal TV & Video for the rest of the world (excluding STUDIOCANAL’s territories).

Additionally, he negotiated a long-term, worldwide deal on the Zoetrope library and worked alongside Lionsgate on the acquisition of European Home Entertainment and digital rights for Miramax. In 2011, Buet and Robb Smith, then executive VP, TV and digital, and currently COO, STUDIOCANAL UK, closed a strategic deal with Amazon for the first pay-TV window in Germany and the U.K.

In 2012, Buet became CEO of STUDIOCANAL in Germany and in only a few years helped make that company one of Germany’s top five distributors. Buet was also responsible for the Lionsgate output deal that covered the Hunger Games franchise, an arrangement that notched for the blockbusters in Germany their best box-office results outside the U.S.

In addition to securing long-term TV agreements in Germany, the deal also fired up local production by way of STUDIOCANAL involvement in films like Heidi, a hit in both Germany and France; Fatih Akin’s Tschick and Mein Blind Date.

Back in Paris in 2015, Buet has been instrumental in forging key deals in the U.S. and China, reorganizing STUDIOCANAL’s marketing operations to assure the strengthening TV sales and that producers and talent get optimum support and results for their shows.

He describes his role today as “overall, the establishment of global strategies to distribute all types of STUDIOCANAL productions, films or TV series, both locally where we have direct distribution structures, and internationally. I work closely with local marketing and direct distribution teams in all the STUDIOCANAL territories—France, U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Abroad, I head the international sales team with Anna Marsh, which establishes partnerships with the top pan-regional and local distributors to provide our slate with an international reach. These unique distribution capacities allowed our little British bear Paddington to hit the big screen in more than 85 countries worldwide to generate $292 million.”

Buet reminds that the company’s challenges of global distribution go beyond their most recent productions. “We also market titles from our world-class library of over 5,000 titles from 60 countries. The combination of local in-house sales teams and a strategic partnership with the likes of Universal Television Distribution at the international scale, or Lionsgate for our catalog in the U.S., gives us the reach of a global player.”

As today’s entertainment world has made more urgent, marketing is another major component of Buet’s work at STUDIOCANAL. As a marketing chief, he keeps a close eye on audience trends and how to get viewer attention: “At more than a quarter of tickets sold in the U.S. last year, audiences 12 to 24 are the largest demographic group for theatres. This huge weight makes it vital for distributors to be able to communicate with them—to get them in theatres today and in the long term to cultivate their tastes for the moviegoing experience amid their growing inclination for online viewing.”

With that view, “Obviously investing in the digital space is paramount for us,” he says, “so STUDIOCANAL has been active in this area for years, engaging online with the fan bases of our established properties like Shaun the Sheep and Paddington early in our marketing campaigns, or targeting key audiences at reasonable cost for our smaller films. Recent examples are innovating around buzz-worthy events like our Twitter #Snowfall challenge in Germany, which featured the live detonation of a real-life, 30-foot statue of Hunger Games antagonist President Snow.”

Buet especially credits executive VP of marketing Jane Carter for “working hard with her team to make our films more attractive to all audiences.”

Increasing audience data  is another area STUDIOCANAL continues to exploit. “We’re learning lessons from China, where more than two-thirds of tickets are now sold on online ticketing platforms, most of which are owned by the three local Internet giants. The insights they gather are already governing local marketing, distribution and screen booking. Internationally, theatre chains, with their unique knowledge of their customers and a wealth of data from loyalty programs, have the opportunity to be major players in data-driven approaches to targeting films.”

Buet points to another important development in the company’s strategy: that of the continuing appeal for local productions and going more granular on local audience needs. “We’ve grown experienced teams of local distributors in five territories and we’ve partnered with the best local players across the board. In a context where ‘glocal’ content is gaining traction at all levels of the value chain, this worldwide network of experts is proving its tremendous value.”

In this whirl of change, he emphasizes STUDIOCANAL’s new thinking and the attention it gives to matters local: “Rather than adopting a more traditional top-down approach, our strategy is to combine strong understanding of local specificities and flexible distribution capacities in a ‘learn and react’ model. We see this capacity to adapt as key to long-term success.”