Today, Love Nature reaches about 300 million households in over 135 countries. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., where its commissioning team is based, the Blue Ant Media-owned nature and wildlife channel has support and sales offices at the Blue Ant headquarters in Toronto, as well as in Los Angeles, London and Singapore, for a truly global reach. “We’ve had tremendous growth over the past three years in particular,” says Carlyn Staudt, head of Love Nature, which launched back in 2006 as Oasis HD. “We started out as a pay-TV linear channel in Canada. We moved to a global SVOD service about five years ago, and then most recently, we’re now a multiplatform wildlife and nature brand.”
The company takes a territory-by-territory strategy approach, according to Staudt, “which means we look for the opportunity very bespoke to the territory, and we’re flexible and agile and creative in our dealmaking. I believe that that has contributed a lot to our rapid expansion. We’re looking to reach the lover of wildlife and nature on whatever type of platform they’re on.”
“In some countries, we’re a pay-TV linear channel—like in the Netherlands, we’re on VodafoneZiggo and KPN and we’re well-distributed as a pay-TV linear channel,” Staudt elaborates. “In other territories, we’re a branded block, say on a terrestrial in the territory like TVP Kultura in Brazil or a regional SVOD like Youku in China. And yet in other territories, we’re leaning into the emerging FAST and AVOD market expansion, which is happening quite aggressively in the U.S., but it’s also happening in other territories.”
Over the last 12 months, Love Nature has rolled out in the FAST and AVOD space in a strategic way, says Staudt, launching on such platforms as The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, ZooMoo, Samsung TV Plus and Tubi. “We’ll probably be announcing a slew of other platforms that we’re signing up in the next couple of months,” says Staudt. “We just announced the launch on Prende TV in the Spanish language. AVOD and FAST, this emerging type of platform, is the place that we’re looking to grow. I would also say that we aren’t afraid to play outside of our own branded services with specific partnerships.” Staudt names Love Nature’s five-year strategic pact with Sky in the U.K. that saw Sky Nature become the exclusive home to Love Nature content in the territory as a particular success. “We’re very open to different ways of getting our content out there,” she says. “We’re just looking for like-minded partners who want to enter the natural-history space and want to do premium and ambitious programming with us.”
Love Nature’s current programming mix speaks to its commitment to be a globally relevant wildlife and nature brand that resonates with a diverse audience of adults and their families. “We’re always looking to showcase content that makes our audience feel really good, that’s optimistic, awe-inspiring and hopeful,” says Staudt. “We want our viewers to walk away with some kind of connection to animals and nature and to have an experience that they can share together. I would say that we do a whole host of different types of programs.”
Among the titles Staudt mentions is the returnable title Malawi Wildlife Rescue, produced by Bristol-based Icon Films and with a second season in the works. It spotlights the female-dominated group of wildlife professionals who run the Lilongwe Wildlife Center in Malawi, featuring stories about illegal wildlife confiscations, large-animal translocations and rescues. “The series is a vehicle to show the important work that’s being done by passionate individuals who really care about wildlife, who really care about our planet,” says Staudt.
Timely and relevant specials on Love Nature’s slate include After the Wildfires, produced by Sydney, Australia-based Northern Pictures and narrated by Hugo Weaving. It provides an affecting account of the wildfires that tore through Australia last year. “The story centers on the animals that struggled to survive and the people who gave their all to save them,” says Staudt. “It has an impactful message about climate change, but also has a hopeful message about the resiliency of nature.”
Staudt also notes the limited series Stormborn, a blue-chip natural-history title from Scotland’s Maramedia, narrated by Ewan McGregor. “It is a profile of animal characters that live and breathe in the Sub-Arctic lands of Iceland and Norway and the Shetland Islands,” she explains. “It’s really blue-chip premium and fantastic.”
Love Nature’s programming pipeline is largely buoyed by commissioned originals, as the company seeks out partners in the best natural-history producers from around the world. “We’re primarily looking for strong stories that forge some sort of emotional connection between our audience and the natural world and that expand the viewers’ knowledge about nature and wildlife,” says Staudt, who adds that Love Nature is a producer-friendly network.
“We’re not tied hard to air dates or global rollouts like other broadcasters,” she says. “We allow producers freedom to ensure the production schedules have enough flexibility to capture the animal behavior that they need to make a great film; that’s really important in wildlife filmmaking.”
Though Love Nature prefers to work with producers who have expertise in the natural-history space, according to Staudt, the company is more than happy to work with new talent—whether that be a new series producer, writer, editor or someone that’s worked in another genre. “Something that brings a freshness to the storytelling, we really like,” says Staudt. “We’re also interested in working with producers who are working with cutting-edge technology that allows stories to be told in really unique and interesting ways.” She’s interested in expanding Love Nature’s producer network as well, to include more partners from continental Europe, the U.S. and Asia.
Staudt is quick to acknowledge that connecting to viewers with nature and wildlife content in innovative ways and reaching new audiences on emerging VOD platforms is not always the easiest of feats. But she’s just as quick to point out the excitement therein. “There are so many platforms playing in the natural-history space, which I think is a great thing,” she says. “It means that the genre is really strong. It does make us, who are commissioning programming, really think hard about how our programming can stand out. We’re trying to push the boundaries of traditional natural-history storytelling. And we want to tell animal stories in a new and entertaining way.”
As an example, Staudt points to A Bee’s Diary, which dramatizes the life of a bee and features the bee as the first-person narrator of its own story. “This approach connected with audiences and felt like a fresh way of telling a natural-history story,” she says. “The other thing that we’re always trying to do is look at where science is leading us. And science has begun to move more and more into studying animal emotions and psychology.”
Love Nature’s Wild Tales from the Farm looks at farm animals’ friendships, rivalries and courtships, and explores how similar they are to their wild relatives. “Looking at it through this new lens of animal emotions allows us to show the connectivity between human behavior and animal behavior,” says Staudt. “It makes the viewer feel a little bit closer in that way.”
The new emerging VOD platforms, particularly the AVOD and FAST channels that are launching, are the way of the future, as Staudt sees it. “They’re bringing whole new audiences to natural-history programming and reaching a whole new generation of wildlife and nature lovers. And it’s a really fun way to start engaging with an audience that may not have been familiar with the genre.” From a content distribution perspective, continuing to lean into the expansion of FAST channels in the U.S. and internationally is goal number one for Love Nature, according to Staudt. “We want to be on the forefront of this expansion. We’ve already carved out a leadership position in this expansion wave and we plan to have the brand aggressively lean into it.”
As Staudt looks ahead, another goal, from a development and commissioning perspective, is to be “a part of ambitious tentpole-level programming,” she says. “That’s kind of a personal goal of mine. We’ve done a great job elevating the quality of our content offering over the past three years, and now I really want to supercharge this; I want to take it to the next level and do some really big, premium-level projects, bigger-budget, longer time in the field.”
Also top of mind for Staudt, from a partnership perspective, is finding “more like-minded partners who have an appetite to enter the natural-history space and the ambition to want to commission top-level quality programming. We’ve been super pleased with our partnership with Sky in particular. Now I’m interested in seeing who else we can play with as well in that partnership space.”