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IP Adaptations are Better for Television - And Buyers Are Noticing

By Veronica Letourneau

June 13th, 2022

Photo: Literary Hub- Source

Adaptations are always a mixed bag - we want so badly to see our favorite book characters in motion on the big screen, and yet many times it can lead to disappointment. Of course, there are times when adaptations do work for a film, such as “Lord of the Rings”, “Shawshank Redemption”, “Fight Club”, “Harry Potter”, etc. However, there is no doubt that we are currently in a golden age of television, which allows for longer-form deep dives into characters and storylines in a similar way novels do. The film and television rights to many popular book series are available for adaptations, and the purchasing of them, for television in particular, has never been in more demand. Film and television studios have never been more hungry and competitive for intellectual properties (IPs).

It’s safe to infer that the increase in book rights purchases is largely due to the increase in streaming services. Netflix was the first popular streaming service, which was then followed by Amazon Prime Video, Disney + , Paramount + , Peacock, and HBO Max. All these streaming platforms are competing for consumers' money, and what is the most effective way to keep them on the platform? By greenlighting weekly long-form television programs of popular properties, which have an already established fan-base and lucrative book sales numbers behind them. All of this to hopefully secure success with audiences and thus the platform. For instance, Netflix knew “The Witcher” was likely to be a success before it even premiered, Although there are never any guarantees in the media and entertainment industry, because of “The Witcher’s” already built-in audience from both the books and the video games, this one was a calculated risk to for the streamer to bet on.

On the film side, adaptations have not always worked. There are tiles that completely failed, and that probably would have benefited from the longer form of television to tell the story. Some examples that come to mind are the sci-fi children's book “A Wrinkle in Time,” Stephen King's fantasy adventure “The Dark Tower,” and the Greek mythology-inspired “Percy Jackson” series. All of these films had incredibly low ratings and, in my opinion, suffered because they were not given a longer-form medium to tell their extensive stories and suffered from poor writing.

Revamping an old property is safer, but it also has the potential to improve past mistakes. Disney’s first venture into the Percy Jackson franchise landed them two films. And while they did try to correct some of the first film’s mistakes in the second film, by trying to make the second one more faithful to the books, it still had plot issues that still lingered from the first film. Nevertheless, there is still hope for the franchise. As of recently, the studio has signed on to make a Disney TV adaptation of the books and this time in close collaboration with the author of the book series. The longer TV form could lead to a better structure for the plot of the first book, while the author working on the project can lead to a clearer and tighter plot structure than in the films, allowing time for easter eggs and foreshadowing elements that make the story more compelling for the audience.

Meanwhile, the author of the “Shadow and Bones” Series, Leigh Bardugo, told the writer for the Netflix series, Eric Heisserer, that she wants him to do it better than she did. The show will change some aspects. For instance, this time the main character is half-Asian, and this choice is plot-related since it authentically depicts the actual world we live in, and adds to the main character's otherness of being the chosen one. The show also added characters from the “Six of Crows'' sequel series, which was more popular than the first one and connected the two series better than the first time around. Television adaptations have been incredibly successful for streaming platforms that even a successful book and film property such as “The Lord of the Rings”, is now also being adapted into a television show by Amazon Prime Video. Once upon a time, it was one of the most successful film franchises of all time. Also, “Never Let Me Go” is another title that has similarly gone from book to film, and is currently being adapted for television as well over at FX.

Call it a hunch, but IP to TV adaptations don’t seem to be just fads with short shelf lives, going away anytime soon. But rather, these new TV adaptations reflect how times are rapidly changing alongside a new generation of audiences, whose tastes and preferences on how to consume content, as well as what type of content and on what to spend their money, greatly differs from older generations. In short, these new TV adaptations serve as a modern, and potentially more sustainable and ongoing, business model for the buyers whose top priority it essentially is to keep their jobs by providing their respective companies with strong return on investments.


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