Televisual Factual Festival: Outgoing Discovery president of international content Marjorie Kaplan talked up the strength of the UK factual market at the Televisual Factual Festival today.

Kaplan, who spent nearly 20 years working for Discovery in the US, moved to London for the job last year and is set to leave by the end of this year.

“British television and British content creators are incredibly exciting and much more different from the US than I expected.”

She cited the unique impact of public broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4 on the UK television market, and the opportunities they provided to factual producers.

Kaplan said that public service broadcasters have helped to create an environment where shows like Gogglebox, First Dates and British Bake Off can grow from relatively small beginnings and flourish into huge hits.

By comparison, she said that shows had to land ‘straight out of the gate’ in the US, where the market is much more immediately ratings focused.

She added that in the US, many broadcasters want to commission a show just like the last big hit, which leads to more of the same. That is not so much the case in the UK, she said, where it is not always about broadcasters ordering more of the same shows.

Kaplan said the track record and reputation of UK producers in the US and around the world is ‘terrific’.

Kaplan is to leave Discovery at the end of the year following a restructure of its London-based creative teams.

The International ContentGroup will become part of the UK/Ireland business, led by Susanna Dinnage.

Kaplan said her departure was part of a strategic shift at Discovery that will see the London office now focus on UK content that can work around the world, and that it made sense to move the commissioning under the leadership of Dinnage.

Tim Dams

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