Wine on screen: making it pay
Nobody can complain that wine is being underrepresented on screen these days. Wine experts appear regularly on on Saturday Kitchen (BBC) Saturday Morning (ITV) and Sunday Brunch (Channel 4), we’ve had (ostensibly) wine-themed feature films such as Wine Country on Netflix and there have been several documentaries too: films such as Sour Grapes, Our Blood Is Wine and Wine Calling, and series such as The Wine Show, The Three Drinkers, and Wine Masters.
The question is how they make money. Or indeed if they make money.
The three documentaries series mentioned above have three different finance models. The Wine Show was produced by an independent production company, requiring upfront capital, and then sold to various networks around the world. They also have partnerships with Vacuvin and Winerist, which presumably have some kind of financial benefit. Producing a series with no advance commission is fairly high risk in terms of the investment needed, but it presumably paid off well enough for them to produce a second series - and there is healthy speculation about a third series. Another revenue source has been a partnership with Celebrity Cruises.
The Three Drinkers has a very different model. The first series focused on Scotch Whisky, and is primarily distributed via Amazon Prime. Since then, The Three Drinkers has become a brand in its own right, offering both consumer-facing products (an online magazine, whisky tours) and trade services (video production, brand ambassadorship, live events). The original series was at least partially funded by distilleries paying to feature in each episode, much like the advertorial content that has become an essential model for print media, but the ongoing business strategy seems to be focusing on establishing the brand and developing multiple income streams.
A third addition to wine on screen is the documentary series Wine Masters. The second series of this, focusing on Italy, has just been released, and I appear in it (disclosure: I was paid by the production company for this work). The director and producer is a wine lover whose career in film and music has allowed him to finance the production of this series, which involves high-specification cinematography shot on location at famous vineyards across several seasons, as well as an original orchestral soundtrack. Each episode features one iconic producer - Gaja for Piedmont and Antinori for Tuscany, etc - none of whom paid for their appearance. The result is a insightful and cinematic series offering the kind of detail designed to appeal to highly engaged wine lovers.
This doesn’t come cheap, however. The show is available via their own website, as well as via Vimeo, iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Renting one 40-minute episode for 48 hours costs €5.99, while a complete series costs between €24.99 and £35.99 depending on platform and duration preferred. A third series of Wine Masters is already in production, so there is evidently a lot of faith (and investment) behind this model.
While making money from wine communication is generally considered a very difficult thing, these different approaches show that the sector has some innovative and healthy approaches to getting wine on screen - and long may that continue.