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Factual Festival: international opportunities for indies

Factual Festival: international opportunities for indies
Tim Dams
25 October 2012

The scale of opportunities for British production companies from global channels was underlined at Televisual’s Factual Festival yesterday.

Commissioners from Discovery, National Geographic and BBC Worldwide said at the festival, which continues today, that they are open for business and actively looking to commission ideas from British indies.

Sarah Davies, vice president of development, factual programming for Discovery Networks International, said the broadcaster had commissioned 30 series – or 150 hours – from outside the US last year. The shows will be seen in 209 countries around the world.

The majority of these shows are made by British production companies, and DNI is looking to double its number of commissions next year. “We are really open for business,” said Davies, who works out of DNI’s UK base alongside creative director Julian Bellamy. She flagged up How We Invented the World, produced by Jane Root’s Nutopia, as a good example of a Discovery show designed for a global audience.

She said Discovery shows that do well feature “real people who do real things” rather than presenter-led series. “Discovery is an outdoors channel. Gold Rush has an epic look, the characters are real and high stakes are involved.” She said she was looking in particular for survival formats and new ways of approaching it, with different faces and diversity. By way of example, she said: “I’m open to survival shows with women – we very rarely get offered that.”

Jules Oldroyd, VP of strategy and development at National Geographic, said the broadcaster’s London production hub – started by Hamish Mykura in March  - is commissioning 10-15 series a year and 10 specials which will be seen in 144 countries and 38 languages.

Recent commissions include shows such as Domesday Preppers, Wicked Tuna, Test your Brain and Vinnie Jones’ Toughest Russia. “It’s quite a significant step up for us. We have moved from a specials based strategy to a series based strategy.”

Oldroyd said Nat Geo was just about to embark on a round of indie briefings, and was looking for character-based series, mostly to air in ten part runs.

Tracy Forsyth, vice president of commissioning for BBC Worldwide Channels runs the commissioning strategy for the BBC’s global channels. Until now, 96% of content on the channels has been straight acquisitions, mainly of BBC programmes. Forsyth said that she was looking to commission 100 hours of new content by 2014.

Forsyth said she was looking for content that could complement acquisitions from the BBC such as Top Gear, Secret Millionaire and MasterChef.

 “I will be commissioning global series that can play in all markets as well as in particular territories,” she said.

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