UNIVERSUM Presents Nature at Its Finest

Marion Camus-Oberdorfer, the head of international content sales at ORF-Enterprise, talks to TV Real about ORF’s nature and wildlife strand UNIVERSUM.

As the most successful brand of ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation), UNIVERSUM showcases a variety of blue-chip documentaries from around the globe. The 25-year-old strand features a combination of in-house and internationally co-produced titles that are sold worldwide. It is best known for its selection of award-winning nature and wildlife programming, with some content also focused on such topics as history and technology.

Among the most popular UNIVERSUM titles is Wild Venice, which spotlights the Italian city of canals. “With the use of marvelous and atmospheric 4K photography, this documentary reveals the unexpected natural glories of the world’s most beautiful man-made environment,” says Marion Camus-Oberdorfer, the head of international content sales at ORF-Enterprise. Other highlights include Vanishing Kings: Lions of the Namib, which uses Ultra HD 4K to showcase five cubs living in the desert; The Canary Islands, a 4K two-parter that will debut at this year’s MIPCOM; Secrets of Bumblebees, focused on the titular insects; and Making an Ancient Forest: Kalkalpen National Park, another UHD 4K production.

“The appeal of UNIVERSUM programs lies in the combination of ambitious and emotional stories around nature and wildlife,” says Camus-Oberdorfer. “The infinite passion to catch the breathtaking wonders and multiple secrets of our globe convince both male and female viewers [to tune in]. The collaboration of an internationally acknowledged and talented team of producers, and the use of the latest technology and storytelling techniques guarantee an extraordinary visual experience for the audience in Ultra HD 4K.”

ORF-Enterprise has been successfully selling UNIVERSUM titles worldwide, and Camus-Oberdorfer notes that the appetite for the strand’s content continues to rise. “Most countries have a high demand for blue-chip nature and wildlife documentaries made in Austria,” she says. UNIVERSUM titles typically find slots on such public broadcasters and major networks as National Geographic Channel, WNET, PBS, ARTE and RAI, among others. Digital sales are also secured with various VOD platforms to provide anytime, anywhere access to UNIVERSUM productions, whose co-pro partners most frequently hail from the U.S., U.K., Scandinavia, Germany, France and Italy.

According to Camus-Oberdorfer, 4K is now a must-have when it comes to nature and wildlife programming. “Due to the increasing competition for viewers’ attention, most TV channels and VOD platforms do not accept [anything] other than 4K productions for their nature and wildlife slots anymore,” she says, adding, “there is definitely an increase in demand for 4K productions.”

There are a number of upcoming programs that Camus-Oberdorfer says will be entering the market by the end of the year. “The remarkable documentary Transhumance: Europe’s Last Nomads, portraying the adventurous and exhausting journey of herdsmen and their animals crossing the Alps, will not fail to impress our audience,” she says. “The Secret Life of Snakes and the spectacular underwater documentary Giants of the Atlantic will convince with unprecedented images. For 2017, we will complete our fascinating range of high-technology wildlife and landscape documentaries with some stunning 4K projects, such as Sky River of the Himalayas, Wild Caribbean: Rhythms of Life, Corsica: The Island Continent, Untamed Albania or Made in Mexico: Animal Voyagers.”

Moving forward, Camus-Oberdorfer says that UHD 4K content will continue to be a priority for UNIVERSUM. “Following the success of past projects, our main focus area is now more than ever the ongoing production of Ultra HD 4K programs, which meet the high expectations of ORF-Enterprise’s global buyers.”