Research group at imec & Vrije Universiteit Brussel

PhD Researcher (FWO) – Fiction production and distribution in the age of platforms

Apply before 30 May 2021

SMIT (Studies on Media, Innovation and Technology) is a research centre of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. It is part of the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences, department of Communication Sciences and is embedded as a core group in imec, Flanders leading strategic research institute on nano-technology and ICT innovation. For more than 25 years, imec-SMIT specialises in socio-economic and policy research on ICT innovation, amongst others, in Media policy and economics (audiovisual policy, public service media, platform policies, film production and distribution, etc.). Our team consists of around 90 senior and junior researchers with a wide variety in backgrounds and nationalities.

Research domain

The PhD research is situated on the crossroads of media economics and production studies. The PhD bursary will work full time on an FWO project under the supervision of Prof. Karen Donders and prof. Tim Raats. The 4-year research track will lead to the defense of a PhD thesis on the topic of Global subscription-Video on Demand services in Europe, and how they re-shape sustainability and content of small television markets.

Over-the-top streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime (OTT’s) are said to be reshaping existing practices of audio-visual production and distribution. These players allow new forms of revenue and outlets, yet they also put pressure on existing forms of financing, most notably from broadcasters.  Scholarly attention for OTT’s has seen an uptake in research on these players; but less attention has gone to how production and distribution strategies of OTT’s (coproduction, acquisition of rights, or co-financing) are actually affecting the sustainability of small markets.

In this PhD, we first define what keeps small television markets sustainable. In the empirical work, we analyse how OTT’s invest in different small markets, reshape existing production practices and financing, affect export potential and return-on-investment, and ultimately: how they increase sustainability, or, conversely, put further pressure on already fragile markets. The work should result in a renewed understanding of vulnerability and robustness of small markets within a platform-dominated European media landscape and should contribute to the development of future-proof policies for domestic content production.

Tasks include:

  • Literature review
  • Interviews with media professionals and policymakers
  • Quantitative analysis of the output of over-the-top platforms (Disney+, HBOMax, Netflix, etc.)
  • Analysis of documents (trade journals, policy analysis)
  • Market impact analysis
  • Writing research papers and academic articles; present research findings in the department, at industry events an academic conferences
  • Daily project management and reporting to the supervisors
  • (Limited) contribution to departmental tasks (bachelor paper supervision, guest lectures, coordination tofa class assignment)
  • Contribute to the unit meetings and other SMIT training or team building activities


  • Master in communication sciences, political science, sociology, economy or similar with outstanding academic results.
  • Broad interest, knowledge of and affinity owithmedia, platforms and television production
  • Good knowledge of social science research methodologies (both qualitative and quantitative) or prepared to acquire this knowledge in a short span of time.
  • Able to work independently, good self-management and good planning skills.
  • Flexible attitude when working in a dynamic environment with a variety of professional interlocutors.
  • Analytical thinking and excellent academic writing skills.
  • You have the ambition to obtain a PhD title
  • Excellent English proficiency

We offer:

  • The opportunity to work four years full time on a PhD track
  • A dynamic and stimulating work environment with enterprising young scientists & experienced senior research staff in an international setting
  • High-quality innovative research on future-oriented services
  • Support and guidance by experienced senior researchers
  • An annually renewed bursary contract for four years.

Please submit your email application including full CV, motivation letter and a transcript of university grades to and (with ‘vacancy FWO bursary’ in the subject heading) before May 30th.

Sounds like the job for you?

Apply before 30 May 2021 by sending your CV and motivation to .