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Banijay's new head of writing, Christian Wikander, on the opportunity behind TV's 'big shift' and why producers need to see AI as a 'tool in the toolbox'

Seven weeks after joining the company, most senior executives should sit down with everyone who will be working with them. Banijay — TV powerhouse with shows like Peaky Blinders, Survivor and more Behind , Black Mirror , SAS Rogue Hero , Marianne Tovanette , Master Chef , Walking with the Kardashians , Big Brother and much, much more – not just any company, as its new global head, Christian Wikander, will soon as found.

Since the acquisition activity did not stop after the end of the $2.2 billion acquisition of Endemol Shine mid-year – 60 – Banijay Now owns more than 60 record labels from all corners of the world. Impressively, after seven weeks on the job, Vikander even managed to meet face-to-face with more than half of them.

The Swede resigned as commissioned editor and vice president of original programming at HBO Max Nordic on 2022 as Warner Bros. Discovery has undergone a major reorganization, replacing veteran executive Lars Blomgren, who joined The Morning Show earlier this year Producer Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res, returns to the roots of production. He went from having his division largely shut down into a new company, and he says scripting is seen as a positive part of the company’s future.

Vikander explains his thinking in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter from Stockholm, which he made in Paris. Nijay’s first major interview since starting the job Streaming the withdrawal from the original show actually provided him with more opportunities to understand the importance of participating in artificial intelligence, and why scripting companies must be more quickly on the Audience needs to respond, including “parking” unattractive items.

What’s your impression of Benjay so far?

I really like this – I just got out of HBO Nordics where I mostly shut doors and run desks clean. So so far, I’ve really enjoyed being here, looking to the future, and being around people who are looking forward to and creating stuff. So I’m very, very positive about it.

Banijay is such a huge company with more than 60 script tag. How do you try to stay in control? Was your first seven weeks basically an endless series of Zoom meetings?

Personally, I think it’s important that you embrace the fact that you can’t really be in control. Let’s be honest, it’s not about being in control because the queens and kings of the company are producers. So my role, and the scripted team’s role, is to support them. So I started walking around and sitting down with every single brand. I’m more than halfway done now. I started far away – in Los Angeles, New Zealand, Sydney and Mumbai. It’s really about listening, trying to understand where they’re coming from, what their strengths are and what their challenges are. With this kind of overview at the outset, it might be easier to see where we should focus more, or where we can best support.

Where do you think you should focus more?

The short answer is, it’s about continuing to do what we’ve been doing, and what Russ has been doing so successfully things. It’s about connecting different brands and getting them to share their experiences. We’re in a market that’s in the midst of this adjustment, where buyers are moving away from the default of getting global rights every time, and that presents us with a huge opportunity. Because it means we’re back to the window system, we’re back to co-financing. In such a group, co-financing is an advantage. If we can really help and support each other for funding, access to markets and service production, then we can really help facilitate a lot of things.

Interesting that you are talking about the current situation – streamers are retreating and cutting spending budgets – this is for you Said to be a positive factor. So is there a clear way for you to see this as Banijay’s gain?

Absolutely. My unit in Stockholm was shut down, and after the merger, the streamer [HBO Max] decided not to produce original scripted content in the Nordics anymore. I think part of it does make sense. Because we come from an era where global buyers are investing heavily in scripted content to build a local presence, kind of like a marketing plan. But they rarely talk about how each game actually performs. So when Netflix first came online a few months ago, you could see a few things were changing, and I think that really led to every movie today. Works in any field need to rely on their own merits and be measured according to their own performance. I think it’s a big shift.

What is Barney’s big work that people are talking about?

The one I wish people were talking about was the Three Little Birds , a collaboration with Douglas Road and Tiger Aspect, created by Lenny Henry. I think it’s a wonderful story, and indeed one of those that has something to say about our time. Hope this becomes a returning series. It has great potential. The other is Ronja the Robers Daughter , another character from Astrid Lindgren’s estate, Has starred in “Pippi Longstocking” (Pippi Longstocking). The film is produced in Sweden by Filmlance and will air on Viaplay. This is for the family, but if you’re six or seven, you probably need a pillow because it can be scary. We recently launched the French series Carême on Apple TV+ about a chef who is hired to spy at the French court. I thought it was a wonderful story, based on real people. It’s been great for us to work with Apple.

Has the writers’ strike affected you in any way? With its bang, is there a shift to international and non-WGA productions?

Honestly, I don’t. But I think in general, not just Barney, I think there’s a slight shift now in a more unscripted direction to keep the supply going. We are monitoring [the strike] closely and hope that the issue can be resolved as soon as possible. But rumors suggest the opposite is true, so this could be the case for a while. So of course that has an impact.

The topic of artificial intelligence is clearly closely related to the writers strike conversation. What are your thoughts on this?

First and foremost, great stories are in our DNA and we like to work with creative people. So that’s going to continue to be the focus for us as a strong company. But I think AI is here to stay, and like anything you feel uncertain about, I think a lot of it depends on getting an education, getting into it, and learning. I think it’s very important to us. It’s a tool in the toolbox.

Have you ever used it? I keep being told I should be using ChatGPT, but just worried that the more I feed, the more I’ll accelerate my own unemployment .

I think you should. Because otherwise everyone else will tell you it’s good or bad, I think it’s about creating your own experience. Also, the speed of development… Chat GPT took two months to reach 1 million users. TikTok took nine months. So the scale and the speed tell me that we very much need to be involved. Only by understanding it can you participate in it. One of the things I just learned about AI is that it has a very white male perspective. It’s not diverse. I think this is a very important example of why we need to be in this space. We need to be involved. We need to understand it. And you need to know how to use it.

What is your personal taste in television?

That’s a good question. What I’m watching now… I’m rewatching Battle of Succession . Because I want to understand how it works. Rewatching it, I feel more like a melodrama, more like a soap opera. Of course, the way it’s built and created is very unique. But I think there’s a lot of room for melodrama, and I really do. It doesn’t have to be at the succession level, but now in some regions, buyers are looking again for longer-term series production. Part of the genre they operate in is melodrama. That’s why I’m working on inheritance. And it does work on a second viewing. The other one I’m watching right now is Season 3 of Happy Valley , which just arrived in Sweden.

You’ve only been in this role for a few months, but when will we see your first gig at Banijay? Get involved or help guide?

Scripted business takes a long time. This is a tanker, moving slowly in one direction. It will take about a year, a year and a half. But I would say, with regards to Slate, part of the change now is that Slate needs to be a little bit more agile in today’s scripting companies. I think commissioners and anchors are slightly quicker at deciding what they’re looking for and better at expressing that. Type, for example, should be on most lists because I think it’s in demand.

That’s definitely been the case on the film front for the past few years. So the interest in genre has also moved to TV?

certainly. I think, as a producer, you should be quicker to stop projects that don’t have traction right now and refocus. I’m not saying ditch those projects, because they’ll eventually find a home, but unless you can focus faster, you can’t really strategize.

Your ex was also Swedish. What’s up with Swedish and high-level scripted TV execs?

I have no idea! Maybe it’s a coincidence? But what I want to say is that I am one of the committee members of Bridge . I think what happened in Northern Europe, starting with Borgen in Denmark, we started getting funding from outside the borders, which led to higher quality production. This, combined with a huge tradition of writing and storytelling with limited resources, makes our content even more internationally appealing and internationally recognizable. Because of this, many of us who are active in the business have a fairly well-established network internationally, which allows us to attend many different groups, situations and meetings. I think that’s part of the reason Nordics are so active in international markets. 2022



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