The Netflix unscripted slate is “poised to move forward in quite an exciting way” according to the SVOD’s director of unscripted originals and acquisitions Nat Grouille. The service has plenty of “white spaces” that it’s looking to fill. “We’ve got lots of open areas.”

Grouille was speaking at an Edinburgh session on the subject of Talkback’s reality dating series Too Hot to Handle, together with co-director at Netflix Sean Hancock. After three years in earnest building an unscripted slate, Grouille said, “we’ve reached a point where we feel confident.”

“We like those what if’s” he continued. “We would love to find those sort of giant resonant formats, a bit like in the golden age 15 years ago when people came out with great shows and ideas and what ifs …..What if you’re on an island? That’s Survivor, What if people all lived in a house and you could watch? That’s Big Brother…What if you could win a million pounds tonight?…”

“We’ve commissioned a lot of stuff, placed lot of bets and we’re finding our voice as service now.” He said that Netflix has commissioned a lot of UK companies over the last few years and if a UK idea feels as if it can be part of a broader conversation then it can work . The SVoD’s UK-based unscripted managers Ben Kelly and Daisy Lilley are in place and “ready to take those pitches immediately”.

One basic of any treatment is to find “a line through” episodes to cater for binge watching and finding big, dramatic hooks to give viewers a really good reason to keep going, or to come back, where Netflix plans a staggered release.

So far, the platform has tended to take one area of unscripted at a time, such as magic or competition shows and make a few bets in each of those spaces. In the reality dating space they’ve now completed Too Hot to Handle and Love is Blind, the first more comedic, the second more dramatic.

Hancock said that the service is keen to find more family entertainment.

What are they not looking for?

Not another Chef’s Table and nothing mean or negative. If the creative is expensive that’s not a deterrent, they will pay, but only if the story justifies it. “It’s all about character and people at the heart of the format,” says Grouille.

Pippa Considine

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