Wildlife, fact-ent and true crime continue to reign supreme in the factual space, judging by the news that came out of MIPCOM last week. And in line with a trend that we could see emerging at MIPDoc earlier this year, there is a move towards more ambitious, event-oriented, big-budget storytelling as producers and distributors look to make an impact in a world where viewers are spoiled for choice.
BBC Studios was in Cannes showcasing its latest blue-chip natural history epic Dynasties, which Tencent in China signed up as a co-producer on. BBC Studios is also launching BBC Earth Tribe, a brand-new BBC Earth fan community, with Tencent. Fremantle revealed that it has secured the global rights, excluding the U.S., Canada and Israel, for the six-part documentary series Enslaved, hosted by Samuel L. Jackson. Using underwater archaeology, Enslaved chronicles the sea voyages that brought millions of Africans to a life of slavery in the New World. PBS International said that it has signed on 13 broadcasters for Chasing the Moon, the six-hour docuseries marking next year’s 50th anniversary of the moon landing, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Stone. And Spring Films is working with legendary documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog, who will team up once again with Geo-scientist Professor Clive Oppenheimer to co-direct a new feature doc that explores mankind’s relationship to meteorites.
There was a raft of announcements in the natural history space, including news that Love Nature, a joint venture with Blue Ant Media and Smithsonian Networks, is prepping the new series Gangs of Lemur Island with Bristol-based production company True to Nature. And Blue Ant International inked a deal with China’s CCTV to bring 60-plus hours of programming from its 4K nature and wildlife library to CCTV-1 and CCTV-10. Susanna Dinnage, the president of Animal Planet, unveiled a global rebrand last week with a new mission centered on “keeping the childhood joy and wonder of animals alive by bringing people up close in every way.”
On the history front, Smithsonian Channel has commissioned Arrow Media to produce a third installment of America in Color, which brings historical black-and-white footage to life in vivid color.
Last week also offered up some insight into how the digital platforms are impacting the unscripted space, as Facebook Watch sealed a deal with MTV Studios to resurrect the reality series The Real World for three all-new seasons in Mexico, Thailand and the U.S. The new episodes will aim to explore friendship and the cultural and social environment in each country and introduce interactive social and community features that empower fans to shape the action and connect across mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV app. Meanwhile, Barcroft Media and TCB Media Rights announced they are collaborating on Shake My Beauty, a long-form TV series based on Barcroft’s hit digital show.
TCB Media Rights was among many distributors that announced brisk business at MIPCOM, including licensing World’s Scariest Hauntings, a paranormal documentary series from Woodcut Media, to Blue Ant Media. ZDF Enterprises announced a raft of deals across its diverse factual slate, such as Viasat World taking The Fatal Conflict: Judea and Rome and A Day in the Life of Earth. all3media international landed new sales on the long-running factual-entertainment series Worst Cooks in America, sealed a multiyear first-look deal with factual indie Field Day Productions and sold five shows to Ovation. The U.S. cable network also took seven titles, totaling 75 hours, from Sky Vision. Autentic Distribution sold a number of its factual titles to broadcasters around the world; GRB Studios secured several factual program sales, including the long-running investigative series On the Case, with Super RTL in Germany; and Gusto Worldwide Media sold more than 40 hours of original programming to SBS Food in Australia.