Rive Gauche at 20

NEW YORK: As Rive Gauche Television celebrates its 20th anniversary, Jon Kramer, the company's chairman and CEO, discusses some of its major milestones.

It has been 20 years since Rive Gauche Television (RGTV) was established, set up as an international distribution company with a global perspective. In that time, the outfit has been initiating successful co-productions, building brands and supplying a range of quality programming to leading broadcasters around the world.

Leading this charge as chairman and CEO is Jon Kramer, who purchased the company in September 2003. “At the time, it was a mom-and-pop operation with about 1,000 hours of programming and functioned strictly as a distributor for hire,” Kramer recalls. “Our first early success was Whacked Out Sports from Mighty Oak Entertainment, featuring funny sports clips. Our real claim to fame came when we introduced Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan from MPH Entertainment/Emery – Sumner. Though it received a very slow reception in the market, through Rive Gauche’s perseverance and creative marketing skills it became a worldwide phenomenon, even bigger internationally than domestically.”

With this success, more media executives and producers came to recognize Rive Gauche as having a good feel for the market and an ability to work with “tough projects,” says Kramer. “The next example of this is Operation Repo from Intrigue and Arietis, another slow starting but very successful show eventually. [From] here we saw our clients become very comfortable taking chances with us on shows that were not obvious instant successes.”

Another significant milestone for Rive Gauche was its first original production for a U.S. network, Pit Bulls & Parolees, with 44 Blue Productions. “I am proud to say the series is going into its sixth season and there is no sign of it stopping,” says Kramer. “It has proven to be a signature show for Discovery’s Animal Planet.”

He continues, “A subsequent corporate milestone occurred in 2012 when Bank Leumi, RGTV’s previous lender, exited the media business and Rive Gauche was well thought of enough to attract several banks’ interests. We were pleased to announce that we partnered with East West Bank, and are still currently. As they have strong ties in China/Asia, we expect to reap benefits from those relationships.”

As the company continued to grow, Rive Gauche made a significant addition with the recruitment of David Auerbach, formerly a programming executive with Warner Brothers for 17 years. Auerbach came to Rive Gauche with years of experience in original production. “His contributions have been widespread and he is currently concentrating on developing and producing new shows for RGTV in the U.S.,” Kramer notes.

The company has been making inroads in the format business for the last five years and is keeping its eye on this area as well. Another point of focus is digital, according to Marine Ksadzhikyan, the company’s senior VP of international distribution. “The digital players are becoming serious contenders, with the launch of Netflix and similar services in multiple territories. We are beginning talks with many of these digital platforms to source content to them. Equally, a lot of territories, such as France and Poland, have started their own services within their region. This proves to be very exciting because it opens us up to a lot more players and gives us the opportunity to share our content with a wider audience. RGTV is ideally suited to supply these new services because of the breadth and depth of our catalogue.”

Rive Gauche is marking its 20th year with another company milestone: entering into the scripted arena. “My background up until 2002 was in the scripted business, where I produced and distributed 40 movies, six seasons of television and 250 hours of soap operas,” Kramer tells World Screen. “As the market has gravitated toward action series and miniseries, it seems a natural evolution for our business. We are currently out in the marketplace with our first few [scripted] projects.”

Ksadzhikyan agrees that Kramer’s background has helped to make the move into scripted a natural evolution for Rive Gauche. “As much as reality programming is still in demand, the need for scripted content is back,” she says. “We have started to put a strong team in place to develop these projects and pitch them to the marketplace. We are employing the same philosophies here that made us a success in the other areas of our business. We’re really looking to make Rive Gauche a spot where there is something for every broadcaster and channel to choose from.”

In addressing more recently successful programming, crime has been a strong genre for Rive Gauche for some time now. The company continues to focus on this segment. “We’ve found that crime is still a very hot topic within all of the markets,” says Kramer. “We are currently home to over 140 hours of successful, long-running crime programming and almost all of our series have been sold throughout the world. Some examples of these popular crime titles are Homicide Hunter, Happily Never After, Sins & Secrets and Ice Cold Killers.”

In looking at growth prospects for the future, Kramer says that Latin America, CEE and Asia are promising for the company’s reality business. “Any new channel launch or change of programming philosophy also signifies further potential sales,” he adds. “In the digital world, we see vast opportunity globally from the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and similar services, many of whom RGTV is already in business with.

“We anticipate being successful in creating both scripted and unscripted product worldwide,” Kramer continues. “We also look to continue activity in acquisition and co-production in the U.S.”