As the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death approaches, TV Real talks to a number of distributors about their factual programming focused on the beloved royal figure.
On August 31, 1997, citizens of the world came together to mourn the loss of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died at the age of 36 as the result of a car accident after being chased by paparazzi in Paris. To mark the upcoming 20th anniversary of the tragic event, distributors around the globe have been busy selling a variety of factual fare focused on the British icon’s life, death and everything in between, from her relationship with the relentless press to her loving bond with sons Prince William and Prince Harry.
“Programming on the British royal family has often attracted remarkable interest from global buyers,” says Emily Elisha, the head of factual at Banijay Rights, which represents Diana’s Death: The Search for the Truth. “With 2017 being a landmark anniversary year since Princess Diana’s death, we anticipated that many channels would be looking to mark the occasion. We discovered that acclaimed director Tony Comiti was producing a film for [France’s] M6 that would re-examine the official investigation files and explore previously missed leads to reveal what could have caused the crash in the Alma tunnel.”
Elisha describes Diana’s Death: The Search for the Truth as “the extraordinary untold story of the needless death of a global icon, shedding new light on this monumental event that shocked the world.” The hour-long documentary is due to debut on A+E Networks’ Crime + Investigation channel in the U.K. on Sunday, August 27, at 8 p.m.
“There is a perennial fascination with royalty, particularly the younger members of the British royal family and their children,” says Barnaby Shingleton, the director of entertainment and factual at Sky Vision, which sells Kitty Kelley: Princess Diana. “The anniversary of Diana’s death has certainly created demand for Diana content in particular, but as one of the most enigmatic and intriguing royals who the public is fascinated by, this content would find an audience in any case, and does not need to be scheduled just around the anniversary.”
Kitty Kelley: Princess Diana sees the titular biographer take a behind-the-scenes look at the rise and fall of the People’s Princess. “The two-part special on Diana is the first of a series of shows for U.S. network REELZ,” explains Shingleton. “Produced by Jupiter Entertainment, [it brings] new information to viewers with supporting evidence supplied by experts such as Paul Burrell, Diana’s former butler, and other renowned ‘royal watchers.’ The commentary is weaved into reconstruction to bring to life some of Diana’s major life events.”
TCB Media Rights is the distributor of the hour-long doc Diana and the Paparazzi. “It focuses on her relationship with the paparazzi, and it’s really quite enlightening,” says Kate Llewellyn-Jones, the company’s managing director. “It’s about how complicit she was in that relationship and [how] it became a phenomenon when obviously they followed her everywhere and the invasion on her life…. And she was just such a natural at it, so it delves into how that all happened.”
Diana and the Paparazzi was originally produced for Discovery in the U.K. and Smithsonian Channel in the U.S., where it will premiere on Sunday, August 27, at 8 p.m. The film was made by TVT Productions. It has also been presold by TCB Media Rights to SBS in Australia.
Another doc focused on the Princess of Wales is Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, part of Drive’s catalog. “It’s a very emotional film because it is coming from the point of view of Princes William and Harry,” says Lilla Hurst, the distributor’s co-founder and joint managing director. “This is very much a film from their point of view and their experience of growing up with her and being her children.”
Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy has been licensed by a number of broadcasters worldwide, including NDR in Germany, TV4 Sweden, Mediaset in Italy, RTL in French Belgium, Channel 7 in Australia, Three New Zealand, CBC in Canada, NRK in Norway, TV2 in Denmark, YLE Finland and HBO in the U.S., where it premiered earlier this week. Oxford Films produced the doc for ITV in the U.K.
These are just a few of numerous Princess Diana-themed factual programs currently on the market. Among many others is The Story of Diana, a two-part documentary event from Time Inc.’s People and ABC that is slated to air in the U.S. on August 9 and 10 at 9 p.m.
“Royal programming, depending on the angle, often has a slightly older and more female skew,” says Banijay’s Elisha. “One of the reasons why programming about Princess Diana is specifically so appealing for networks is that the content appeals across the board and will often perform well with all the key demos.”
“We see this [type of] content being aimed squarely at a broad female audience,” agrees Sky Vision’s Shingleton. “Even though Diana died 20 years ago, she remains enigmatic for a huge number of people, even those too young to remember the ’80s and ’90s. She personifies that era, which is currently very much in fashion.”
“There’s such wide interest [in this kind of programming], as evident by the following that Princess Diana had, so broadcasters that are looking at it span several demographics—from the older generation right through to the younger generation,” notes TCB’s Llewellyn-Jones. “I think the fascination with royals is fairly widespread, so it’s actually generating enough interest across all types of broadcasters.”
Drive’s Hurst adds: “In the past we’ve seen documentaries about Diana that were more around conspiracy or just a little bit edgier, whereas I get the sense this year that the docs that are going out [are] reflective while being a little bit more warmhearted. I think when it comes to factual shows, there’s just a need to understand events and how they occurred but from, let’s say, a slightly more intelligent point of view than perhaps we’ve seen in the past.”