Love Nature’s FAST Expansion

The factual channel Love Nature has been broadcasting documentary films and series across the natural-history spectrum for 15 years. The last two years, which have seen a surge in factual content’s popularity, have proved particularly fruitful for the company, with documentaries and natural history “experiencing a true renaissance,” according to Carlyn Staudt, Love Nature’s global general manager. “Platforms around the world are actively seeking out this content for their audiences. The rise of AVOD and FAST kick-started this demand, and the pandemic has certainly kept this momentum going.”

***Image***“All of this demand has validated our decision to launch Love Nature as a FAST channel in the U.S.; our brand is now available on more than a dozen FAST and AVOD platforms in the region,” adds Staudt. “The thirst for factual has pointed fans in the direction of free streaming, which allows them to add even more of the programming they love to their entertainment portfolio.”

Indeed, the natural-history genre’s popularity is on the rise all across the globe. Staudt credits this boom in part to the escapist nature of the programming that transports viewers to stunning landscapes. “In Love Nature’s case, our strong storytelling combined with a creative and modern approach to the genre makes our productions gripping and fresh,” she says. “It provides a feel-good factor for viewers and takes audiences to places they can’t otherwise experience.”

Natural history also benefits from its ability to draw in a co-viewing audience. Contributing to its appeal to the younger members of a household is the generation’s keen interest in the environment and climate change. “Young people are invested in wildlife conservation and climate change and care very much about the survival of wildlife and the earth’s ecosystems,” explains Staudt. “They are a passionate generation actively educating themselves on these topics, and we are always thinking about how we can create and distribute programming that will speak to them.”

In Love Nature’s efforts to connect to viewers, the channel is constantly looking “for new ways to tell these stories, whether it’s by crossing genres (i.e. natural history and drama) or by implementing new, cutting-edge technology into our filmmaking,” says Staudt, who adds, “Our original programming draws in global audiences by featuring stories that are universally compelling to viewers, regardless of language barriers and borders.”

Among the original programming available on Love Nature are Malawi Wildlife Rescue, which follows the group of women who run the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre; New Kids in the Wild, which gives audiences a look at the first months of baby animals’ lives; and the celebrity-led Osprey: Sea Raptor with Game of Thrones’ Sean Bean and The Ocean’s Greatest Feast, narrated by Graham McTavish.

“Ensuring Love Nature’s original series have global legs also means commissioning world-class projects,” notes Staudt. “To bring large-scale projects to life, we build financing partnerships with like-minded broadcasters such as WNET Group/PBS, Sky, ARTE, Discovery (Animal Planet) and National Geographic. As another means of finding financing, we work closely with our global distribution group, Blue Ant International, to access distribution advances.”

Financing partnerships are especially important amid the pressing demand for premium factual content that has grown with the proliferation of free streaming services over the last few years. Love Nature saw the opportunity to be had in the FAST space and leapt to capitalize on it. It’s currently available across more than a dozen free streaming services in the U.S., including The Roku Channel, Samsung TV Plus, VIZIO WatchFree+, Xumo and PrendeTV.

“When Love Nature’s content partnership with Smithsonian Networks came to an end in 2020, we had the opportunity to debut the brand in the U.S. for the first time,” Staudt explains. “We quickly set our sights on the emerging FAST space to bring our content to new audiences hungry for free programming. A big draw is that FAST audiences are broad by age demographic. Everyone is buying the devices, including people who have pay-TV packages as well as people who are outside of the cable ecosystem (OTT), notably younger audiences who have never had cable and are now enjoying the lean-back experience of a linear programming schedule for the first time.”

When it comes to content partnerships as it looks to scale the brand, Love Nature entered into a five-year deal with Sky in support of its Sky Nature channel in the U.K. in 2020 and expanded that deal into Italy and Germany the following year. “Through the partnership, Sky Nature became the official home of Love Nature’s award-winning 4K series and documentaries and established itself as the biggest natural-history channel in the U.K.,” says Staudt. “On our end, the deal gave our celebrated originals library significant exposure and has provided us with financial leverage to continue commissioning premium, top-tier content for wildlife and nature fans around the world. It’s been such a successful move for us that we’re now looking to forge similar content partnerships with media players in other markets.”

For the coming year, Love Nature is looking to continue its expansion on FAST platforms across the globe and to develop more ambitious projects through co-productions.

“From our earliest days, we knew that commissioning quality content, owning and acquiring our own IP, expanding on new platforms globally and becoming a key player in new kinds of production would be critical for our business,” says Staudt. “With more opportunities to grow than ever before, this is an extraordinary time for our industry, and we are excited to see how Love Nature evolves and expands within this new world.”