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Home » Sister CCO Jane Featherstone Champions ‘Bold and Brave’ Storytelling

Sister CCO Jane Featherstone Champions ‘Bold and Brave’ Storytelling

Sister co-founder and chief creative officer Jane Featherstone spoke about how difficult it is to back original IP – as opposed to the relentless stream of reboots and spin-offs – in the current climate. “We have to hold our nerve,” Featherstone said. “As producers, we have to try and [walk] that tightrope of kind of giving people what they think they want but surprising people. And I don’t think audiences always do know what they want until they see it, and you can’t always emulate. So we have to be bold and brave.”

Featherstone was speaking in Cannes during a keynote speech at MipTV as she accepted Variety’s 2023 International Achievement in Television Award on behalf of Sister, the production company known for original fare such as “Chernobyl” and divorce drama “The Split,” which she runs with Elisabeth Murdoch and Stacey Snider.

The exec also credited the many writers Sister work with, from Abi Morgan (who created “The Split”) to “Giri/Haji” showrunner Joe Barton. “I stick with the talent,” Feathestone told the audience in Cannes. “Hold your nerve, but speak to a mainstream audience, but do it in an elevated, dynamic, quality controlled way. It’s what we try to do.”

Featherstone also predicted that the economic downturn will encourage buyers, particularly streamers, to structure deals differently in future, with excessive rights hoarding likely to become a thing of the past. “I think that the market for exclusive buying up all rights in perpetuity has to change because all of these big companies need to make money,” Featherstone said. “And so selling rights and selling secondary windows and you know, making the program have an audience globally with different buyers and on different channels, seems to make a lot of sense for people who don’t need to keep something on the shelf forever.”

“I think when those streamers were establishing themselves, the ownership of brands, of programming, was really critical,” she added. “[Shows] couldn’t be seen on a competitive platform because that would affect the brand-building of those streamers. But now that they have extremely clear and dynamic brands, the vast majority of them, they can share more, in order to make the sums add up. And I think that’s a really healthy place.”

Featherstone also said that Sister has been busy expanding its roster of partners, which include AMC, ITVX and Britbox, as well as attracting the best talent.

“We can react quickly, because we don’t have a corporate structure that prevents us from doing that,” Featherstone said. “So I think that’s really important. And I think the talent know that. [Talent] have signed a lot of overall deals in the last few years. Some will [continue to] exist. Shonda [Rhimes] will have one for as long as she wants one I’m sure and she deserves it. But they won’t all be at that level that they have been and there will be talent who want to find a home where they can be nimble and choose where they land their show for the best buyer.”

“Who loves it most? You know, that’s what we want to try and find,” she said. “Who is going to love your baby as much as you do.”

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