Female-Skewing Series Propel Breakthrough’s Factual Drive

Craig McGillivray, the VP of distribution at Breakthrough Entertainment, talks to TV Real about the company’s growing factual and lifestyle catalog and trends he has been seeing in that space.

Toronto-based producer and distributor Breakthrough Entertainment handles a wide-ranging catalog spanning series, feature films and digital content. “We’re a Canadian company that’s known for doing a bit of kids, a bit of documentary, a bit of lifestyle and a bit of scripted and movies,” says Craig McGillivray, the company’s VP of distribution. “We’re trying to up the game in every one of those genres.” With factual programming currently booming across the globe, Breakthrough is capitalizing on the trend.

***Image***The company recently acquired international distribution rights for two factual programs from Hallmark’s streaming service Feeln. The first is Breaking Bread with Brooke Burke, which looks on as the titular host of Dancing with the Stars fame meets with her celebrity friends to discuss secret recipes, conduct cooking demonstrations and share her personal tricks and tips in the kitchen. Breakthrough also snapped up distribution rights for Wonder Women. The title explores inspirational stories of women from around the globe who have broken boundaries in their efforts to improve the world. “It’s only two series for now, but it’s been great to have this pipeline,” McGillivray says of the partnership.

Both titles are female-skewing, and McGillivray says that there has traditionally been an appetite for such programming internationally. “There’s always been a need on the female channels. They need programming from the international marketplace, perhaps because they don’t produce as much ***Image***at home, and that works well for us.”

The acquisition of shows like Breaking Bread with Brooke Burke and Wonder Women is part of Breakthrough’s overall strategy to bring premium content to the company’s catalog. “You need to have premium content, and that’s the investment we made in Breaking Bread with Brooke Burke, that’s the investment we’ve made on some of the lifestyle programming that is higher-end. We would like to do more of that. There’s some risk involved, but we’re happy to do it. Knowing your marketplace mitigates the risk, and that’s where we want to be.”

Alongside programming that serves female viewers, Breakthrough’s factual catalog features true-crime titles such as Hollywood Homicide Uncovered, which the company produces and distributes. The program tells of real murders connected to the pursuit of celebrity, with each episode centered on a suspicious Hollywood death, told from the point of view of the investigators. Episodes examine the O.J. Simpson trial and mysterious deaths such as that of rapper Tupac Shakur. Another true-crime series with a link to Hollywood movies that Breakthrough distributes is The Shocking Truth. Produced by Pyramid Productions, the documentary series looks into real-life murders and paranormal events, and how Hollywood turned these true stories into memorable films. “They’ve done very well,” says McGillivray. “There’s always a need for crime,” especially following the success of the Netflix series Making a Murderer and HBO’s The Jinx.

The company has also had success with the eight-part lifestyle/reality series Young Once from Tricord Media, which is filmed on location in California and follows students who attend one of the U.S.’s most conservative universities. “Think Little House on the Prairie meets The Hills or Laguna Beach,” McGillivray says of the series. “There’s always a need for high-quality, engaging content,” he adds. “There’s always a home for that, so it’s done very well.”

Looking ahead, Breakthrough will continue to push “our new content and our premium series out to the market [and place them with] the right homes.” McGillivray adds that another aim is to monetize the catalog and get it on VOD platforms, which will help generate revenue. He notes that preparing titles for VOD platforms requires quite a bit of work, “because it’s digitizing, it’s metadata, but once you start, it becomes a lot easier for future platforms. That’s going to be a big thing for us [this] year. We’ll want to get our entire catalog on as many platforms as possible, making it available without jeopardizing any opportunities for linear.”