This month, former Televisual editor turned freelance journalist, Tim Dams talks to us about the impact of FAANG on the TV industry and why everyone is obsessed with this season’s smash hit BBC drama Bodyguard.
What are you writing about at the moment?
The FAANGs. As a journalist, it seems you can’t avoid writing about them at the moment, as the disruption they’ve unleashed on the TV and film market is so profound. They’ve brought greater opportunity for lots of indies, particularly drama producers. But they’ve sparked a crisis of confidence at British terrestrial broadcasters and US cable channels, who are the still the main clients of most indies. The drift away by viewers from linear schedules is, if anything, under-reported, particularly among younger audiences.
What are the headlines that everyone’s talking about?
In terms of programmes, it’s Bodyguard, which has put a bit of spring back in the step of the BBC. More generally, many of the headlines are now about how companies are partnering up to compete with the US tech giants. That could be European broadcasters partnering to co-fund programmes, or British broadcasters working together on their own joint-streaming service. ‘Partnership’ is the buzz word of 2018.
What is your biggest frustration as a journalist?
Transcribing interviews. In this era of Amazon Alexa and voice-activated tech, I still can’t believe I’m having to do this. I wish there was a reliable piece of tech that could covert audio to print yet. It would save me hours each week.
What are you watching on TV at the moment?
Like everyone, Bodyguard. I’ve yet to see the last episode though, so am desperately trying to avoid any reference to it in the media. I’ve just started Money Heist (La Casa de Papel) on Netflix – I’m a bit late to this Spanish hit, but it looks good so far. I recently interviewed director Michael Waldman about his upcoming documentary Inside the Foreign Office for BBC2 and that’s definitely one to look out for.
When I was invited to contribute to the newsletter, I was concerned that my current ‘keepmeawakeatnight’ stream of consciousness was probably not something I should share (or anyone would want to read) so I turned to a spot of research on food and feeding. Absolutely my favourite subject. Wikipedia lists around 100 old and new food programmes with the oldest listed broadcast in 1993.
Food and London are two things I love. But who will live in the City 10 years from now and more vitally who will work in the City? Will millennials need the drug that is London like I did? Will they seek out every last funky restaurant and every groovy bar – nightly? Is there a reasonable future based around living, working and growing your own outside of a city, or even in a different country, and commuting in once or twice a week for meetings and feedings. And what does this mean for the TV industry, especially my bread and butter food programmes?
The role of the TV Chef
Looking back at some of my favourite shows, I remember Fanny Cradock broadcasting in the 1970s. On reading her bio it is apparent her culinary knowledge was very limited but her penchant for the ludicrous was so entertaining – good telly. I remember Keith Floyd, the fabulously talented and usually slightly tipsy TV chef, mesmerising his audience with not only his passion for wine but also with his phenomenal skill in the kitchen. He really springboarded the world of TV chefs I think and changed the development of food content for TV. Food content post Floyd is far more sedate – indeed Wikipedia lists most food programmes as educational rather than entertainment.
I worry everything in the food genre has become too safe, too polished. We need new voices; shows that are exciting, entertaining and original. With more and more millennials falling out of love with London due to prohibitive costs, too much noise and horrible commutes, the nations and regions debate has never been more relevant. Programmes should be made by people from and in all parts of the country. They’ll bring a diversity of voices to the screen that should really invigorate the quality of content. We’ll hear from more than middle class men telling working class people they need to eat fresh rather than junk food.
There was a fantastic article by the Guardian’s food critic Grace Dent arguing that “perhaps because healthy-food campaigners always sound so posh, any debate can only ever descend into a bunfight over privilege.“ It’s a valid point. Is a working class person from Liverpool likely to take advice from someone of such a fundamentally different world like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall?
Food shows have the power to do more than just entertain, they can help improve the health of the nation. But it won’t work if the shows don’t appeal to different people, especially those most affected by poor diet – that’s why we need more tasty content rather than the same stuff served up in different packaging every day.
By Tessa Laws, CEO, Franklin Rae
It’s the busiest time of the year for the TV industry. And our press office is no exception! Everyone wants to make an impact at market and we’ve been busy doing just that for our clients, announcing some of the biggest deals that happened at MIPCOM. Here’s what we’ve been working on:
Shellhut and Tiny Island Pictures sign record 10 feature film MOU with Shanghai Media Group’s Wingsmedia
The biggest animation film cooperation deal took place between Thailand’s Shellhut Entertainment and Singapore’s Tiny Island Productions earlier this month. Both companies signed on a 10-feature film co-production with MOU and WingsMedia, a member of Oriental Pearl Group and Shanghai Media Group. Valued at an estimated USD$250 million, this is the first ever China-Singapore-Thailand animation co-production! Following a buzzing press conference at MIPCOM, news of the deal was covered in Variety, C21, MIP Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Content Asia, Animation magazine to name but a few.
Komixx secures worldwide rights to Wattpad sensation ‘Captured’ by Kelly Anne Blount
Independent film and TV producer, Komixx Entertainment announced it has optioned the worldwide screen rights to electrifying young adult thriller novel Captured; the debut novel from award winning author Kelly Anne Blount with more than 15.6 million reads worldwide on Wattpad. Captured builds on Komixx’s reputation as a leading producer of exciting YA TV and film adaptations internationally. With the announcement featuring prominently in The Bookseller, C21, Variety and the Variety newsletter on the first day of MIPCOM – Komixx is fast becoming known as the leader in identifying content to surprise the YA generation.
Talesmith explores the history of Earth in spectacular new documentary for ZEEL and Smithsonian Channel
High-end, specialist factual production company Talesmith has been commissioned by Zee Entertainment Enterprises LTD (ZEEL) and Smithsonian Channel to produce the incredible Life of Earth: From Space and Life of Earth: The Age of Humans. A world-first collaboration between Talesmith, ZEEL and the Smithsonian Channel – this spectacular two-hour 4K/UHD feature documentary delves into the planet’s extraordinary 4.5 billion-year old history as never seen before. With coverage in the MIP Daily, Realscreen, C21, TBI, Worldscreen and TV Asia – this was one announcement making history at MIPCOM.
Smithsonian channel™ renews hit series ‘America in Color’ from Arrow Media
Arrow Media has been re-commissioned to produce six new hour-long episodes of its hit series America In Color by the Smithsonian Channel. The series, which first premiered in July, presents iconic moments in U.S. history as never seen before – using artistry, an expert colorizing team and cutting-edge technology to transform black-and-white films and photographs into vibrant 4K color. The announcement appeared in Televisual, Realscreen and C21 at an important time during the market to help Arrow make an impact.
Channel 5 orders second season of Naked Entertainment’s ‘Celebrity 100% Hotter’
London-based Naked Entertainment, the production company creating bold, innovative factual and entertainment programming, chose MIPCOM to announce its extreme-make-under format 100% Hotter has been commissioned by Channel 5 for a second celebrity spin-off series. Following the success of the first series, which almost doubled the broadcaster’s primetime average among 16-34 year olds, the four hour-long episodes will air in January 2018. C21, Worldscreen and Realscreen all covered the news with enthusiasm!
TV Azteca and Keshet International join forces in scripted co-development deal for Mexico market
Keshet International announced a scripted deal to co-develop and produce a new original Spanish-language super series (60 episodes) to air on TV Azteca. The series will be developed under the KI banner and co-produced in house with TV Azteca and set to launch in 2018. Keshet International will distribute the series globally. With widespread coverage across the board in Variety, Rapid TV News, Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, Worldscreen, TBI and C21 – the news comes during a period of tremendous growth for KI in Latin America.
Until next year MIPCOM…
As Donald Trump looks to engineer the world in his own image and turn the planet orange, Sheffield Doc/Fest hosted the panel “Climate Change: The Greatest Story of Our Time?”. The session explored the challenges of telling the story of climate change on screen. The panel consisted of leading figures from across the factual industry, including Arrow Media’s Ash Potterton (Man Made Planet: Earth From Space, C4), Director Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Coral, Netflix), Director Julia Dahr (Thank You For The Rain), Prof Joe Smith (Open University) and Keo Film’s Will Anderson (Hugh’s War on Waste, BBC) and Sky Entertainment’s Celia Taylor.
The poisoned chalice
TV remains one of the most influential and readily accessible mediums for the public to learn about the world. And climate change represents the most significant threat to the survival of this planet. According to a recent IPSOS Mori poll, 80% of the global population now agree climate change is largely the result of human activity.
Despite the clear importance of the subject, climate change programming was previously regarded as a “poisoned chalice” among producers. Arrow’s Ash Potterton, admitted as much during the panel. But after making Man Made Planet: Earth from Space, Arrow recognised that issues with the genre’s “preachy” tone must be addressed. The challenge is to create a show which avoids the old tropes. It needs to be engaging and entertaining, with a broad appeal.
Putting the story first
This attitude shift is part of a wider trend within the production industry. Producers are beginning to explore innovative ways of making shows which tackle climate change. The UK is home to the most creative talent in the world and they’re making climate change shows people want to watch. The industry has recognised the need to put the story first and the subject second. It’s about encouraging producers to use their brilliant storytelling skills to eschew that “preachy” tone. This doesn’t mean every show is going to get it right. But it does mean key lessons are being learned about what works with an audience and what doesn’t.
Take Arrow’s Man Made Planet: Earth from Space as an example. For a supposedly unpopular genre, the ratings revealed that in the 16-24-year-old bracket viewing figures were up 73%! This was achieved by packaging the documentary as a never-before-seen perspective on how the world has changed over the past 45 years. And not solely about climate change.
Climate change is a subject which struggles with balancing small human elements with the grand central issue. It’s a problem of creating scale. With Man Made Planet: Earth from Space, the solution was bouncing from the macro (satellite time-lapse images images showing the dramatic changes caused by mankind) to the individual (plucking out personal stories about the impact climate change has had on them), in order to make it feel both epic and intimate.
Finding a platform
With SVoD, the opportunities to reach different groups of people has become even easier. Chasing Coral from Emmy Award winning director Jeff Orlowski launches on Netflix in July, and tackles the catastrophic damage of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef. And whilst an exceptional film, where else would such content have found a home where it could reach so many? Orlowski spoke about how Netflix allowed them to take the film on tour to schools, colleges, universities and community centres. We all know someone with a Netflix account, so by letting Orlowski put it on a big screen, it becomes extra marketing for the platform. It also means that the message about global warming reaches a far wider audience – a win-win situation.
With Trump abandoning the Paris climate agreement, it has never been more important for the global community to tackle the single greatest threat to our existence. We’re on the right path and the TV industry is waking up to the responsibility of using its influence as storytellers to spread the message.
There’s just one last thing I’d like to leave you with; more needs to be done and not just by telling stories. It’s time to practice what is being preached. Production companies need to really think about how they can be greener. A good place to start is the albert sustainability initiative for the visual-arts; a venture set up in conjunction with BAFTA which provides guidelines and a commitment to being an eco-friendly producer. I’ll raise an ethically sourced plastic bottle of water to that!
By Xander Ross, Senior Account Executive at Franklin Rae
Last week we attended a breakfast event at BAFTA with a number of the specialist factual commissioners from the BBC, Sky, Nat Geo and Channel 4.
Despite an early start the David Lean room was full capacity, with filmmakers and production company’s all looking for insight into the latest trends and what’s on the commissioners radars.
A key take away across the panel was ‘authenticity of experience’, something which in an era of ‘alternative fact’ and ‘fake news’ Tom McDonald, Head Of Specialist Factual commissioning for the BBC, said is imperative. Authentic portrayal is something specialist factual programming must provide.
Conversation also touched on the ever changing digital world and what this would mean for the genre. Many on the panel agreed that the traditional 30’ and 60’ minute format is becoming increasingly old fashioned. With VoD and SVoD becoming more and more the first port of call for viewers, the commissioners said there was a greater flexibility for filmmakers to make engaging content that could be 15’ or 90’ minutes in length. Short form has definitely become more popular in recent years, especially for people on the go i.e. commuters, and younger audiences who traditionally take to YouTube for a quick fix. So there are ample opportunities to make specialist factual more accessible for these audiences.
Snow Leopard – India – Planet Earth II
Moderated by media-veteran and journalist, John Plunkett it was a fascinating morning listening to key figures from a genre that is still riding on the crest of the wave of successful recent hits such as Planet Earth II, The Secret Life of 4/5/6 year olds and 24 Hours in A&E. Specialist factual is a genre that we are confident can create informative, entertaining and must see programming.
By Michael Goward, Account Executive at Franklin Rae.