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Televisual Bulldog Awards in pictures

Here’s a selection of photos from last week’s Televisual Bulldog Awards.

Held at The Hospital Club, the evening brought together the makers of some of the best productions of 2014 as voted for by Televisual readers, including Strictly Come Dancing, Gogglebox, Sherlock, Wimbledon,  Shaun the Sheep and The Paeodophile Hunter.

Pictured are the winners with their Bulldog trophies. The photos were taken by Jonathan Perugia (

Posted 30 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Which camera?

The camera market has been undergoing a process of constant transformation over the last few years.

The agents of change are technological innovations such as 4K, file-based media and the entry of new players who have challenged the more established manufacturers. 

To help navigate through the choices available, Televisual has produced a new report called Which Camera?.

The aim of the report, which was first published in the June issue of Televisual, is to point to the most readily used cameras in the major genres of production and to discuss why these models have risen to the top.

You can now read the full report in the Reports and Surveys section of

Which Camera?
will be the first in a series of reports in Televisual which will take a closer look at the technology which is most widely used in media production, with the spotlight falling on lenses and lighting in future issues.

Posted 29 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Tips from the top of television

Thoughts on the state of programme making in the UK today - from some of the winners of the Televisual Bulldog Awards 2015

The Televisual Bulldog Awards take place this month (25th June), with a celebration dinner for the winners at The Hospital Club.  Ahead of the Awards, Televisual canvassed some of the winners – who were unveiled in last month’s issue – for their thoughts on the state of programme making in the UK today. 

We wanted to hear from the UK’s leading producers and directors about the key trends in TV: what they feel audiences are responding to and will respond to in the coming year, and what programme makers should be thinking about if they want to succeed – and perhaps win a Bulldog next year.

Their responses throw up a wealth of ideas and suggestions. There’s an awareness that much of television is simply concerned with exploring well trodden “territories.” Against this, there are opportunities to stand out for real stories which compel and engage. These, of course, take time – and money – at a time when broadcaster budgets don’t always allow such a luxury.

Drama writers Jack and Harry Williams say the three fundamentals always stay the same: “It’s all about good stories, compelling characters and primal emotions that people can connect with.”

This is true in factual features too, where there is also a strong emphasis on authenticity. For Love Productions creative director Richard McKerrow, it’s vital “to place the emphasis on authentic experiences and individuals who are so captivated and passionate about what they are doing that they forget the cameras are there.”

Meanwhile, “joyous entertainment” is the theme for BBC controller of entertainment and events Katie Taylor, who says audiences are tiring of cynical entertainment “where the heavy hand of the producer is at play.” She uses the “authentic” word too, saying viewers like to see real endeavor paying off.

The challenges and opportunities thrown up by new technology also feature strongly in our award winners’ thinking. Wimbledon exec producer Paul Davies points out that multiplatform delivery is crucial to attract the modern consumer, particularly the younger audience. New streaming platforms are also affecting the way that drama is written. As dramas get more serialised, “the big end-of-episode hook is no longer reserved for your series finale,” point out Jack and Harry Williams. Factual producers, meanwhile, are aware they must compete against the complexities of long form drama for viewers attention. So, says 24 Hours in Police Custody exec producer Simon Ford, viewers expect documentary makers to tell their stories in sophisticated and intelligent ways.

Richard McKerrow
Creative director, Love Productions
The Great British Bake Off 
Factual features continues to be one of the most exciting genres on British TV and remains a world leader in terms of creativity in popular TV. Wherever it places the emphasis on authentic experiences and individuals who are so captivated and passionate about what they are doing that they forget the cameras are there, then this will continue to be the case.  As long as it’s about placing people within the exciting frame of a clear simple format in a new space or special access to an undiscovered world, then audiences will continue to engage.

Paul Davies

Executive Producer, BBC Sport
There are very few sporting occasions that aren't available to watch live these days. Core TV coverage remains king, but you don't plan any major event without considering multi-platform opportunities. While it's crucial not to alienate your traditional audience, you ignore the demands of the modern consumer at your peril. Delivery to tablet, mobile and via social media has opened up new opportunities, expanding live audiences and appealing to a younger audience. Embrace this digital revolution but protect the core values of OB production, an art form where we must always keep our eye on the ball!

Simon Ford
Executive producer, The Garden
24 Hours in Police Custody
With so much factual television simply exploring (and re exploring) familiar "territories," the people who watch and love documentaries reward those films which dig out real stories that really compel and engage them. They absolutely expect programme makers like us to tell these stories in sophisticated and intelligent  ways. After all we are increasingly competing with the satisfying complexities of modern long form drama when we ask for the attention of viewers.

Graham Stuart
Exec producer, So Television

The Graham Norton Show
The Laws of Talk Shows were written on tablets of South Californian stone many years ago. They decreed that format was sacrosanct and hosts should not change. Then came a time when Jimmy Fallon turned the Tonight Show into an all-singing, all-dancing, game-playing party. And Jimmy Kimmel forgot Old Media and concentrated on the New. And Hollywood stars realised that sitting three on a red couch with a charming Irishman was actually fun. And David Letterman bowed out and James Corden swept into the Late Night universe. Now anything is possible. Welcome to Talk Year Zero. Good luck everyone.

Katie Taylor
BBC controller of entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing
Strictly shines through for audiences as it encapsulates joyous entertainment. Audiences are tiring of cynical entertainment where the heavy hand of the producer is at play. It’s a pure format that is enhanced every year, but without format gimmicks. It’s authentic, showing that real endeavour pays off and the performers genuinely care about what will come out of the Judges’ mouths. It’s inclusive and much like Britain's Got Talent, it’s become event TV that my 9 year old niece and my 80 year old Auntie will watch and engage with on different levels.

Henry Singer
Director, Sandpaper Films
Baby P: The Untold Story
The Baby P film was the first feature length documentary on prime time on BBC1 in many years.  It created a real sensation, and I think as a result of that BBC1 — and I think some of the other channels — will be looking for some really big films, whether they’re investigative or not.  Channels throw the term ‘reputational singles' around lot, but whereas in the past I think that was mostly talk, now there’s some real interest in them. But independent producers should see them as ‘reputational’ as well: budgets will remain very, very tight. 

Jack and Harry Williams
The Missing
Streaming and catch-up are becoming ever more common, and the way we watch TV is reflected in the content as dramas continue to get more serialised - the big end-of-episode hook is no longer reserved for your series finale. With bigger TVs and more international opportunities, the line between TV and film gets ever more blurred as high-end television drama now attracts movie stars and incredible crews. But the fundamentals remain the same – it’s all about good stories, compelling characters and primal emotions that people can connect with.

Posted 16 June 2015 by Tim Dams

ITV focuses back on the UK to bolster production arm

After focusing on the global market for the past year, ITV Studios is once again bolstering its presence in the UK production market.

ITV is reportedly close to announcing the acquisition of Twofour Group, the maker of The Jump and Educating Yorkshire.

ITV Studios has also raided leading comedy and entertainment producer Objective Productions, hiring a number of senior execs to launch entertainment outfit Cats on the Roof Media.

The deals would significantly boost ITV presence in factual, entertainment and comedy in the UK.

The Guardian reported that the Twofour deal could be announced this week. An ITV spokesperson declined to comment.

The Twofour Group turned over £87.5m according to Televisual’s 2014 Production 100 survey and comprises factual, entertainment, drama and comedy indies Twofour, Boom Wales, OSF, Indus, Mainstreet and Delightful Industries.

Meanwhile, ITV is setting up new indie Cats on the Roof with Objective co-founder Andrew O’Connor, plus Objective Productions managing director Paul Sandler, head of entertainment Matt Crook and creative director Adam Adler.
Cats on the Roof Media will act as an umbrella group within ITV Studios, overseeing a number of labels.

Gameface Productions will focus on gameshows and will be headed up by Adler as managing director.

Second Act Productions will produce scripted comedy to be run by a yet to be appointed executive.

Cats on the Roof Media will also oversee Crook Productions, an existing label run by Matt Crook. Its credits include Watch’s The Incredible Mr Goodwin.

The hope for ITV Studios is that Twofour and Cats on the Roof will create hits that ITV Studios Global Entertainment can exploit on the international market.
The deals also continue broadcaster ITV’s pivot towards production as part of its ongoing bid to diversify.

ITV’s UK production labels now include The Garden, Big Talk, So TV, 12 Yard, Potato and Possessed. Earlier this month, ITV took full control of Poldark producer Mammoth Screen, increasing its stake from 25% to 100%. 

ITV's US acquisitions include Gurney, High Noon, Thinkfactory, DiGa and Leftfield. In March it acquired The Voice producer Talpa.

The swathe of deals mean that ITV is now a significant player in the global TV production market.

Posted 10 June 2015 by Tim Dams

C4: protect 'Britain's Creative Greenhouse'

The title of Channel 4’s latest annual report is ‘Britain’s Creative Greenhouse.’

The phrase speaks volumes about how the broadcaster is positioning itself in 2015, a year when talk of a £1bn privatisation by the Conservative government has reared its head.

C4, argues chairman Lord Burns, “plays a special role as a creative greenhouse for TV, film and digital.” He describes C4 as a not for profit, publically owned company that makes a major contribution to the UK economy at zero cost to the tax payer.

Indeed, C4 remains a vital source of business for the UK’s successful indie sector, spending £430m on original programming and working with 338 suppliers last year. 207 were indie TV companies, 92 online suppliers and 92 film companies. 49 were new suppliers to C4. ITV by comparison, works with 89 indies and C5 some 59.

Meanwhile, C4 spent £169m on factual, up 10% following investment in series like The Jump, The Taste and Troy. Investment in entertainment also rose 10% to £109m, with new series of Gogglebox and 8 out of 10 Cats. Drama spend fell 13% to £100m following the cancellation of Shameless, but the channel says it plans record spend in both drama and comedy this year.

Some of the figures in the annual report are less impressive. Viewing to the main channel fell to its lowest-ever share at 5.9%. Back in 2005, it stood at 9.6%. However, the audience share of C4’s portfolio of six channels was more stable at 10.9% compared to 10.8% in 2005.

C4’s executive team were also handsomely rewarded, with chief executive David Abraham receiving £855k – almost double the £450k pay of BBC director general Tony Hall. Creative director Jay Hunt earned £581k.

Speaking at the launch of the C4 annual report today, chief executive David Abraham warned that privatisation would inevitably mean less money being spent on original content so that C4 could achieve a “20-25% margin, like ITV”.

Abraham added: “I don’t think you could have a C4-lite; you either have full Channel 4 or you have Channel 5.”

The implicit warning is that C4 would have to spend less on distinctive, not for profit shows like Dispatches and Channel 4 News if it was privatised.

The message to government seemed pretty clear: selling off Britain’s Creative Greenhouse would risk undermining the fragile ecosystem that helps grow the UK’s creative industries.

Posted 09 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Discovery maps out new paths to growth

Discovery underlined this week the extent to which it is building out from its origins as US pay-TV broadcaster specializing in factual programming.

At a press conference at the Paris Open fronted by CEO David Zaslav, there were four key themes: sport, OTT, content and the international market.

Discovery announced the full launch of its own direct to consumer OTT service Dplay in Europe, a similar product to Netflix or Sky’s Now TV.

Discovery executives said the launch of Dplay was part of a strategy of adapting the broadcaster to the new ways in which viewers are watching content at any time and on any device.

First launched in Norway last year, the video streaming service is now available as a beta product in Denmark, Italy and Sweden. 

Dplay aims to reach one million subscribers by 2017. It gives access to select programmes from across Discovery’s portfolio of channels. Pricing strategies will vary by market.

There are no plans as yet to launch the service in the UK, where Discovery’s content is already available on Now TV.

Discovery also talked up its plans for Eurosport, after buying a controlling stake last year. Eurosport has signed ten new sports rights deals in the past week. Discovery is also launching a local Eurosport channel in Denmark, and relaunching Eurosport Player, the channel’s online simulcast.

The deals include acquiring the rights to Wimbledon tennis for Belgium and the UEFA Europa League in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Singapore.

Discovery aims invest more in the localisation of Eurosport channels in each market, with more local rights, programming and personalities. In this, Discovery aims to follow the model it has adopted when rolling out its channels around the world, making localization and investment in local content a priority.

Eurosport chief executive Peter Hutton said: “The challenge now is to make Eurosport far more locally relevant.”

The push into sports underlines how Discovery no longer sees itself as simply a factual TV player.

As well as moving into sports via its investment in Eurosport, it has also focused on the kids TV market, particularly in Latin America. Zaslav said Discovery Kids was the number one cable channel in Brazil.

Discovery is also dipping into scripted content, greenlighting a drama about the origins of Harley Davidson. Zaslav said Discovery chose to go with the Harley Davidson story because “we think it is global…and because we think it will work around the world.”

However, he suggested that Discovery would not invest too heavily in scripted, saying “the market is getting pretty crowded.” Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, HBO and Starz have poured money into drama in recent years.

Discovery also confirmed that it is moving away from the more sensational end of factual programming. Earlier this year newly installed Discovery Channel president Rich Ross spoke about returning to its roots in documentary, after criticism for shows like Eaten Alive and Megalodon.

Zaslav said this process had actually started before Ross arrived at Discovery. “We began that pivot about a year ago,” he said.

“Non-fiction had started to get more aggressive in terms of characters,” he said, adding that “some of the content you were seeing with beards and cows and pigs running through the kitchen – we thought lets not do that any more.”

The focus now, he added, is on the core Discovery brand with an emphasis on adventure, exploration and science.  “We strive for quality,” said Zaslav.

Much of Discovery’s growth in recent years has come not from its home market in the US, where it has seen weaker ratings and ad revenue, but from international markets. Some 55% of revenues now come from its international networks – and Discovery is aiming for that figure to reach 65% in three years. Its channels are now available in 230 countries and territories.

President of Discovery Networks International JB Perette said there were three key focuses to the business: growing audience and share on all platforms; focusing on ‘beacon brands’ like the Discovery channel, which is important in ‘era of fragmentation’; and investing in must have content.

Discovery now invests $2bn annually in content. “I have never been more optimistic about the content business,” said Zaslav. “To start with we own all our content, that is a huge advantage. Think about the pliability and flexibility of content. We can put it on any platform, any device...that is a differentiator.”

Discovery has bought a swathe of UK production outfits, investing in superindie All3Media (with Liberty Global), Betty, Raw and most recently Sam Mendes’ Neal Street.

Zaslav said he saw he real opportunity for Discovery in investing in production companies, describing the deals as an opportunity to build scale in content and own IP.

Discovery, he added, was focused on holding on to IP as much as possible. He described the production investments as creating “an IP farm” which could “nourish” Discovery’s channels and OTT service Dplay.

Posted 05 June 2015 by Tim Dams

Film 40: the UK's top film producers, DPs, studios and more

The Film 40, Televisual’s comprehensive report on the UK film industry is now available to read online in full.

The Film 40 lists and profiles the UK’s most influential film producers. From Aardman through to Working Title, they are producers with a track record of creative and financial success in the film industry.

The report also showcases the leading film studios, such as Pinewood and Warner Bros Leavesden, which are hosting increasing numbers of big budget Hollywood shoots.

There’s also reports on the top UK film sound post production houses, as well as a ranking of the UK’s top ten directors of photography.

Posted 01 June 2015 by Tim Dams
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