Entertainment One (eOne) has been providing broadcasters and streaming services with a whole host of content to satisfy viewers—with more people either homebound adjusting to new routines or merely seeking to escape the news cycle—from established franchises and long-running returning series to new scripted and factual programs. Acquired by global play and entertainment leader Hasbro last year, eOne has also begun developing many of the giant’s 1,500-plus brands for film and television.
As president of international distribution at eOne, Stuart Baxter leads a team that continues to work closely with their clients around the world. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been critical to remain up to date on their clients’ changing needs. The coronavirus forced a hiatus of production and the postponement of sports events, which caused significant gaps in broadcasters’ schedules. “It’s about knowing their schedules, what might work, what their target audience is, and presenting the right shows,” explains Baxter. “Where before they were sourcing a lot of programming from their own commissions and recent U.S. studio shows, now they are also looking at indie distributors and asking, What do you have that’s fresh and upbeat?”
Broadcasters and platforms are also taking a fresh look at programs they may have previously not considered. If a show performed well in other markets, it’s worth exploring. “We are seeing new sales for shows that have had limited exposure in a market but performed well elsewhere,” says Baxter. “And we’re also seeing sales where maybe a streamer took a show the first time around, and broadcasters are now looking at taking second windows, or vice versa.”
eOne has two significant shows, in particular, that are being looked at anew by broadcasters. “We’ve received strong interest from the U.S. market for Nurses and expect a sale to close imminently. Sales on this show continue to be active as we’ve now sold it to more than 100 territories worldwide. Nurses is a character-driven medical drama that is very timely and puts a well-deserved spotlight on the unsung heroes of the hospital. It’s performed tremendously well in Canada, where we produce it.” Another American network is looking to buy the legal procedural Diggstown, which offers multi-faceted storytelling and a strong, diverse cast that gives the show a broad appeal internationally. The series recently launched on the premium streaming service BET+ in the U.S.
eOne has been able to resume production on season two of Nurses, season four of Burden of Truth and season five of Private Eyes as well as two all-new series: Feudal from showrunner Sheri Elwood, executive producer on Lucifer, and Family Law, starring Jewel Staite (Firefly) and Emmy-nominated Victor Garber (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), which eOne will be launching this week at its virtual event, eOne Preview: Studio Edition.
Getting back into production is a top priority for eOne. Cruel Summer for Freeform, a youth-skewing drama announced in February, is scheduled to commence production soon, and season three of The Rookie for ABC, now sold in more than 180 territories, has just resumed production.
Baxter says that given the current times, clients have been asking for lighter TV fare. “In recent years, there’s been quite a focus on dark and serialized, particularly from the streaming world. What we are hearing from broadcasters and streamers is that now they are looking for something a little bit more uplifting, affirmative, escapist, positive. We’re seeing everything from comedies and romance to escapist and fantasy programming.”
One such show that is selling well for eOne is Private Eyes. “It’s slightly nostalgic, slightly comedic, what I call a lean-back-TV, retro-crime show,” says Baxter. “The Rookie is much the same. It appeals to a wide audience and has a recognizable, lovable character that Nathan Fillion plays.”
Among the other shows on eOne’s slate performing well are established franchises such as AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, which traces the evolution of the gaming and computing industry and the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning crime drama Cardinal.
eOne acquired its first French-language series, La Garçonne, which was a huge hit in France. The period crime drama set in Paris in the 1920s was the highest-rated drama of the year for France 2. On the other side of the world, eOne enjoyed success with the Australian drama Upright, which was Foxtel’s highest-rated premiere of 2019 and among Sundance’s most-watched new shows in 2020 across its streaming platforms. The show’s universal themes are part of its appeal, blending the comedy of the situation with a heartfelt story of reconciliation and emotional growth, explains Baxter.
eOne has also had several successful factual shows. As Baxter notes, “factual is having a bit of a resurgence; it’s easier to produce in these times of COVID-19 and quicker to get back into production.” Undercover: Inside China’s Digital Gulag recently won a BAFTA and an International Emmy in the current affairs category.
“We are trying to work with creators and producers of material we think is genuinely of the highest quality,” says Baxter. “We’re not in the volume game. In the last year, we did the BAFTA-nominated documentary The Hunt for Jihadi John with HBO and Channel 4, as well as Lost Relics of the Knights Templar, which was the number one non-scripted premiere for Sky HISTORY channel in the U.K. in over six years. We’ve also done a couple of shows with CNN. Tricky Dick is a portrait of a president who also experienced impeachment proceedings but he did end up resigning office. We think that at a time when the world is watching America and waiting to see the result of the elections, joining high-quality projects that stimulate conversation is a good thing to do.”
Last, but certainly not least, eOne will soon be announcing exciting projects from Hasbro as part of its inaugural online showcase event, eOne Preview: Studio Edition, taking place this week.
See eOne’s Fall 2020 Showcase here.