The slate at Nicely Entertainment has been growing, due in part to the fact that its circle of consistent content partners is expanding as well. “Over the years, we’ve been nurturing and developing very strong relationships with U.S. partners like Netflix, Lifetime, GAF or UPtv, and we’re excited about the 2023 upcoming Christmas slate we’re producing this year for the U.S. channels and platforms,” says Vanessa Shapiro, CEO. “Our growth is also fueled by the creation of our mini-studio in Arizona, and the hiring of our new head of production, David Hickey.” The first production under the banner is the cozy-mystery film Mystery of the Heart, produced as an original for the Sony-owned Pure Flix SVOD platform.
Nicely is also seeing success with new genre movies, such as the disaster film Super Icyclone, which will be released this summer. “As a company, we need to grow, but we cannot dive into projects blindly; we need to ensure that the films we develop have interest and a built-in audience globally before we commence production,” Shapiro says, pointing to the romance titles Baked with a Kiss and Love at the Lodge as examples.
While female-driven feel-good films remain the company’s bread and butter, Nicely has been diversifying its offerings. Presales are in place for its first disaster film, Super Icyclone, in Italy, Germany and Canada. Its first horror-thriller, Bad Connection, was presented during EFM in Berlin. The company is also negotiating sales on its 8K IMAX theatrical documentary Beyond the Reef. “We’ll be maintaining our boutique feel and will always be producing a strong volume of traditional and Christmas-themed romance films,” Shapiro says. “So even though we’ll dabble a bit with alternative genres, our core offering will remain romance, feel-good movies and strong female-led stories.”
When acquiring ready-made films from third parties for its slate, there’s flexibility in terms of genre and style, says Shapiro. “We can release a variety of titles—including drama, action, thrillers—that allow us to grow our library, reach new clients and generate revenue from regions and territories we normally don’t have the opportunity to secure business from via our romance slate alone. We certainly don’t pick up just any available completed project; we evaluate every completed film or series and look for key indicators of success. Does this project have a strong production value? Was it or is it licensed to a strong local/native broadcaster or partner? Do our projections show enough potential for our bottom line as well as enough for the producer to be satisfied?” She adds that there are key areas where Nicely is aiming to grow as a company, including ramping up its direct-to-consumer VOD relationships, and sees finished-tape acquisitions and even library acquisitions as a way to reach these audiences.
In terms of co-productions, Shapiro says the approach is a strategic one. “We’re in a growth curve, one we’re steadily and strategically maintaining. We have a growing circle of trusted partners and are excited to dive into projects that have great story elements but also make sense for all our co-producing partners.” The company is currently averaging over a dozen original co-pros each year with U.S. clients. It is also increasing its production collaboration with partners such as Jaggi Entertainment in Australia, for instance, with a slate of four movies this year, including A Royal in Paradise and Romance at the Vineyard.
Even with its growth and diversification, Nicely wants to keep a boutique approach and feel. “We want to remain lean and focus on core genres we know well, which allows us to ensure everything we develop is quality entertainment,” Shapiro says. “We are a one-stop shop for romance, holiday and family-friendly content. We are growing and are excited to see our volume increase year on year, but we are determined not to grow too quickly nor see the quality of what we’re bringing to market decrease. When we acquire content, we are clear in how we’re filtering that project and how it fits with our overall slate. And when we develop content, we go through several creative rounds to make sure we’re delivering what our clients—and their audiences—truly want to see. We offer consistency and want to be known as a reliable partner.”
Indeed, Nicely’s USP as a content provider is “consistency,” Shapiro says. “We come to each market with a fresh slate of solid TV movies, focused in genres that match what our worldwide clients seek,” identifying female-driven rom-coms, Christmas-themed romances and female-led thrillers. At MIPTV, the company showcased its brand-new romance slate, including Romance at the Vineyard, A Perfect Christmas Pairing and Love by Design.
From a business standpoint, Shapiro says that being independently owned gives Nicely an advantage. “We have the freedom to dive into any project we choose and the ability to focus our attention on what truly matters most. This has allowed us to remain nimble and fast in our approach while never sacrificing the quality or reliability of our offering. Being independent has also allowed us to develop very strong relationships with our key clients. They have invested a great deal of trust in us, and we don’t take that for granted. We’re able to focus on each project and ensure quality with an on-time delivery and on budget.”
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