Getting your hands on stand-out, compelling, globally resonant factual specials and series is harder than ever, and aligning with key talent is paramount—a trend that was evident at MIPCOM.
The scripted business is not the only sector of the content landscape in the grips of a major arms race for talent. As we explored in the MIPCOM edition of TV Real, it’s not easy being a doc distributor these days amid the emergence of a raft of SVOD buyers and rapid-fire consolidation among production companies.
We saw that at MIPCOM as Banijay Group kicked off the factual news of the week by announcing its backing of a new production label, The Natural Studios, from Bear Grylls and Delbert Shoopman. “In a crowded marketplace, with many new players, only strong talents can cut through and as the face of adventure globally, Bear does just this,” said Marco Bassetti, CEO of Banijay Group, in announcing the partnership. “Both he and Del bring an incredibly strong portfolio and track record in this space and fit harmoniously with our existing catalog of world-class adventure entertainment brands.”
The week also saw All3Media announce a new production company, Angelica Films, headed up by award-winning producer Sally Angel, focused on premium factual and specialist-factual content and documentaries.
In other partnership news, Banijay Rights announced a co-dev agreement with the Canadian indie Arcadia Content; U.K.-based Zig Zag Productions and South Africa’s Hipster Media revealed they are co-developing a documentary based on the audio recordings for Nelson Mandela’s best-selling autobiography Long Walk to Freedom; and Orange Smarty entered into a new partnership with TI Productions, a subsidiary of TI Media, which owns such brands as Country Life, NME and Wallpaper. FOX Entertainment tapped Propagate as its international distribution partner for unscripted programming and format rights. In addition, there were two key announcements in the music-docs space, with Eagle Rock Entertainment and FilmRise co-producing ICON: Music Through the Lens, and Beyond Entertainment forming a new joint venture with music producers TNC Media to develop, produce and distribute music-related feature documentary films and TV series.
Digital players continue to reshape the market and are increasingly having an impact on the non-scripted space. MIPCOM saw Facebook Watch unveil a new initiative to pair digital publishers with creators and public figures who have established communities on Facebook. “We will then fund these collaborations to create exclusive content for Watch,” said Matthew Henick, global head of content planning and strategy for Facebook and Instagram. Projects in the works include Matchday Menus with Adam Richman and Date Fails with Conor Maynard. In China, iQiyi is on board for the restaurant series Amazing Chinese Restaurants from Zoomin. The SVOD service DocuBay has added a wealth of new programs to its offering as it gears up to launch in 180-plus countries beginning next month. China Mobile’s video platform MIGU Video is set to co-produce Animal Impossible with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit.
In other wildlife-content news, BBC Studios entered a long-term partnership with Nine in Australia for the BBC Planet franchise, and PBS International sold The Serengeti Rules to the BBC in the U.K., ARTE in France, ZDF in Germany, MTVA in Hungary and Delta for inflight. Other distributors that announced brisk trade during the week include Keshet International, with sales on such shows as Prison Girls: Life Inside and Around the World by Train; GRB Studios drumming up business on its celebrity-driven factual programming; and Blue Ant International shoring up deals with several Japanese broadcasters.