Dozens of the UK’s leading factual indies flocked to East London on Tuesday (19 February) to hear the content priorities of some of the country’s leading broadcast commissioners.
Taking place at Rise London in Shoreditch, the Broadcast Intelligence Commissioner Index breakfast panel featured Louisa Compton, Commissioning Editor of Dispatches at Channel 4 (C4), Dan Korn, VP of Programming at A+E Networks UK; Guy Davies, Commissioning Editor Factual at Channel 5 (C5); and Hilary Rosen, Deputy Director of Commissioning at UKTV.
C4’s Compton encouraged producers to “rip up the rule book” and ensure pitches were “news making, news breaking, revelationary and investigative” in nature. “We need to do news stories that other channels and broadcasters wouldn’t do. Every single Dispatches has to be steeped in journalism,” said Compton, adding: “We often get stories that are really interesting but may not tell us anything knew.”
The exec pleaded with indies to “not be snobby about half-hours” and said that C4’s 8pm slot was a great opportunity to make a significant impact. To the audience’s surprise, Compton said her team was “not getting enough Brexit ideas” and encouraged producers to look at the current political climate for inspiration.
A+E Network UK’s Korn said there were plenty of opportunities for first time producers to make short-form content for its History channel. More broadly, the former STV Creative Director said History had shot up Sky’s EPG, meaning the channel had more of an obligation to “really entertain.” “We try to touch on issues that have contemporary resonance and that are important but to do so in a way that’s fun and dynamic.” Described by Korn as “the home of true crime”, A+E’s female-skewing Crime and Investigation channel is now using more and more on-screen talent to examine psychology from a different angle. Interestingly, Korn said the majority of History’s UK audience demographic was more north of England-skewing and aged in their 40s.
Channel 5 is now operating in a world post ‘Big Brother’ and as such there are plenty of opportunities for producers to make their mark on the broadcaster, said Davies. The exec said the broadcaster now felt “more grown up in that we feel really part of that PSB universe” with shows including ‘Michael Palin in North Korea’ bringing in strong ratings and “signalling our commitment to talent”. Opportunities for factual producers lie on C5’s 8pm, 9pm and 10pm slots with budgets for the 8pm and 10pm slots beginning at approximately the £100k mark. Davies also called for “edgier and more shock doc types” of programming, as well as more observational documentaries.
UKTV’s Rosen encouraged producers in the room to pitch to her “with ambition”, adding that the channel did offer funding development opportunities. She said that in recent times, the UK channel group had shifted from acquisitions to commissions. “There’s a lot of opportunity for people in the room,” Rosen said. “We are an entertainment network, we are very clear about our audience, we are very very audience-focussed.” Rosen pointed to opportunities at 8pm on UKTV’s male-skewing Dave channel (55% male, 45% female), which is broadly on the hunt for fresh ideas with “adrenaline and attitude”. The exec highlighted Boom! client Barcroft Studios’ Yianni: Supercar Customiser as a show with the particular energy the channel was looking for.