Meeting the Factual Demand Amid COVID-19

Mirjam Strasser, head of sales and acquisitions at Autentic Distribution, talks to TV Real about COVID-19’s continued impact on the demand for factual content.

It has been months since the coronavirus pandemic first saw cities, towns and entire countries around the world impose lockdown measures in an effort to control the spread of the virus. While restrictions are easing in certain regions, the demand for factual content—which can both offer in-depth explainers on the global health crisis and a means of escape to distant lands that one can’t currently physically visit—remains high.

“In light of people worldwide being bound to their home countries, we can clearly recognize a growing demand in genres like travel and lifestyle and wildlife,” says Mirjam Strasser, head of sales and acquisitions at Autentic Distribution. “It is particularly these genres that allow people in lockdown situations to escape from their own, perhaps somewhat boring, everyday life. Virtual trips are taking the place of real holidays that became impossible because of the corona pandemic.”

Strasser adds, “Wildlife programs benefit from a similar effect. It’s a privilege to be taken to remote, untouched regions of the Earth that one might not otherwise have seen with one’s own eyes. For both, 4K programs top the list.”

While the travel and wildlife content transports viewers away from their current quarantined situations, programs that delve into viruses and pandemics in general give it context. The demand for these latter titles is likely to hold for a while, according to Strasser, who notes that Autentic Distribution’s fast-turnaround documentaries, including Corona Diaries, prove to be among its best sellers. On the success of the fast-turnaround docs in its catalog, which also features Blackrock—The Unsettling Power of a Financial Investor, Almighty Amazon, The Cobalt Syndicate and Overdosed—The Opioid Crisis, Strasser concedes, “The challenge here is, of course, their short shelf life.”

Regardless of the factual sub-genre or the time it takes to bring a project from conception to completion, broadcasters and streamers have vacant slots awaiting fresh content. “Channels are opening new factual slots to substitute sports events that don’t take place on their originally planned dates and live shows that were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic,” explains Strasser. Fortunately, Autentic Distribution was prepared with documentaries in the pipeline—both from the Autentic label and producers whose programs the company distributes—for which shooting had been completed pre-pandemic.

“Since post-production is not suffering badly from the global shutdown, those productions can luckily be finalized,” says Strasser. “It really plays into our hands now that we acquired so many new high-quality productions at the beginning of the year. Thus, we are lucky to have upcoming releases during the summer.”