Be an optimist to create a partnership …

… but a pessimist to ensure it works   

BBC Worldwide’s David Moody is an expert in media company partnerships, delivering value for the commercial arm of the corporation. Here he shares his top four essentials for building relationships that deliver.

Transmission

  1. A big, exciting idea

The best partnerships are built around a big and shared idea or opportunity, which excites all involved, encourages them to be generous and is important enough to allow them to see past the inevitable difficulties.

The recent partnership between BBC America and AMC Networks that I was involved is a perfect example of this – both the BBC and AMC Networks saw that by combining both our television channels businesses in North America we could create something bigger and more exciting than either could create alone and own smart television in the U.S.

  1. Incentives for all involved

This idea needs to be supported by a sound logic, common incentives and  a fit between the parties involved. It should be apparent to each party what the other brings to the partnership  on an ongoing basis. If this is not the case, at a minimum it should be clear what would be lost if the other party exited the partnership.

I was involved in joint ventures at the beginning of the UK cable industry that were about short term sharing of risk and it was inevitable that once the business was up and running one party would seek to buy out the other – which is what duly happened. The partnership needs to have the right incentives to encourage all parties work hard for its success and be rewarded fairly for this. The same also needs to be true if the partnership runs into difficulties, assuming both parties are doing what was expected of them.

  1. Shared values

A partnership has a greater chance of success if both parties share the same values, care about the same things and ideally the individuals involved enjoy spending time with each other.

If these ingredients are in place, then the partnership should have strength to adapt and grow, if not, then problems are likely to emerge especially as there will inevitably be unforeseen challenges and changes.

  1. A well-worded contract that covers (all) eventualities 

These ingredients should be distilled as far as possible into a clearly worded contract and/or partnership document. It is best to address difficult issues such as deadlock, conflict and dissolution upfront and be clear about what each party is expected or require to do before the partnership. One needs to be an optimistic to create a partnership, but a pessimist to ensure it works.

When stuck late at night negotiating what seem like clauses that will never have any relevance I always remind myself of what happened when our DVD partner -Woolworths- went into administration. The original BBC deal team and their advisors had  thought this eventuality and drafted a clause in the contract that saved us a huge amount of time and money.

Hopefully, once the contact is signed it will stay closed on the lawyers’ shelves, rather than well thumbed on each party’s desk.

David Moody

Director of Strategy, BBC Worldwide

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