Upfront: News Briefs for November 1997

BBC and ZDF output deal:...
November 1, 1997

BBC and ZDF output deal:

BBC Worldwide and ZDF Enterprises, the acquisition and distribution arm of German pubcaster zdf, have inked an output deal which will substantially strengthen BBC’s position in the German market. Of the 46 hours of wildlife doc product to be produced in the next four years, the deal includes three series-cycles of BBC’s The Natural World, as well as The BBC Wildlife Specials, and two Animal Drama films which are slated for completion between 1999 and 2001.

National Geographic Video Deal:

While Time-Life Australia extends its Australian and New Zealand video distribution agreement with National Geographic Television by three more years, Barcelona-based distrib RBA Publicaciones has extended its distribution rights beyond Spain to include all of Latin America (with the exception of Brazil’s Portugese-language market).

Primetime brings MICO to N.A.:

At mipcom, Primetime Entertainment (u.k.-based Primetime Group’s 15-year-old ‘daughter’ company in the u.s.) secured exclusive North American distribution rights to Japan-based prodco mico’s catalogue of over one hundred titles. The U.K. arm, Primetime Television Associates, already represents mico’s high-quality wildlife programs throughout the rest of the English-speaking world.

mico previously repped itself in the U.S. through a small NYC operation, but decided three months ago to hand their product over to Primetime – which already had a specialized North American team working in the area of nature, science and technology – and has since closed its U.S. operation.

Pets R Us TV:

If you’re looking for a sign saying the end is near, it’s likely the four horseman of the apocalypse will have their own slot on My Pet TV Network, a new U.S. cable outlet from Michael Marcovsky reaching 4.5 million homes, 24 hours a day.

Pet afficionados can look forward to shows such as Furriest Home Videos, Hollywood’s Rich and Furry or Two Tails Up – a movie showcase where viewers get a chance to win prizes if they can pick out politically incorrect treatment of animals in old movies.

Scheduled to broadcast in 11 markets upon its May ’98 launch, the service has advertisers purring from as far away as Germany, Ireland and the U.K. and ‘alliances’ with The Humane Society, shelters and veterinarians.

England’s Natural History Destination:

Slated to open in Bristol, England during the spring of 2000, the theme park Wildscreen World will unite the best of the natural and electronic worlds. Wildscreen will be an educational destination for the natural history set – complete with video theater, 3D-Imax cinema, Electronic Zoo, and ARKive.

While the entire project is an ambitious undertaking, the ARKive aspect is particularly challenging. ARKive hopes to amass an audio and visual record of every animal, plant and habitat on the planet, especially those considered endangered. The ARKive collection, a collaboration between Wildscreen World and international stock footage companies, will act as a central educational resource for the park’s visitors. While some footage will be housed on-site, the resource will also point visitors in the direction of the stock companies who can fill their film needs. Plans are also in the works to offer ARKive’s archive services over the Internet, with transfers protected by invisible electronic watermarks so information is not used for commercial applications.

The idea for Wildscreen World, and especially for ARKive, has been around for more than a decade, but only recently has the technology and the funding become a reality. The money comes from Britain’s national lotteries in the form of the Millennium Commission, a group funding 12 different projects scheduled to be completed by the turn of the century. A second source of funding comes from The Heritage Lottery, which will pick up the rumored £4 million price tag accompanying the technology which will make the project possible.

Canal+ launches Demain!:

Launched October 29 on the Canal-Satellite digital numeric satellite package and on cable, Demain!, an initiative from France’s Canal+, is a new service devoted to career, employment and labor issues. Two services are offered through Demain! In addition to a channel which broadcasts 18 hours of magazines and features per day on topics like job hunting and starting a small business, viewers of Demain! can use their remote to access a database including daily job ads, training courses and other work-related initiatives.

Canal+ is seeking other French and European partners to aid in the ongoing development of Demain! The French Ministry of European Affairs will aid in the financing of specific features on Europe, and Canal+ has signed a coproduction deal with pubcaster France 3.

Movement at United Wildlife:

The creation of United Wildlife, an umbrella company formed after London-based United Broadcasting & Entertainment acquired Partridge Films’ parent company HTV Group, has meant some personnel changes for all the companies involved. The new super prodco brings together Norwich-based Survival Anglia and Bristol-based Partridge Films, and creates one of the world’s biggest single catalogues of natural history and wildlife footage.

While the creative heads of both Survival and Partridge (Petra Regent and Michael Rosenberg, respectively) will remain, the two companies will share a director of development in Andrew Buchanan, formerly director of development at Partridge. Partridge’s managing director Mark Broughton has become managing director of United Wildlife, and Survival’s former financial controller, Mervyn Warner, now takes on the same title at United Wildlife.

Big screen Cousteau for National Geographic:

As part of its move towards an increased presence in theatrical features, National Geographic has purchased rights to the life story of Jacques Cousteau for an undisclosed amount from The Cousteau Society, the non-profit environmental organization Cousteau founded in 1973. National Geographic Feature Films, under exec producer Hank Palmieri, says the company is negotiating with several ‘A-list’ directors to helm the project.

Discovery’s global product grab:

Between the latest joint-production slate with BBC Worldwide and the multi-year production and rights deal with United Wildlife’s Survival, DCI is adding almost 450 new hours of product to its war chest. With bbc, dci will produce over 40 new hours of natural history destined for the duo’s joint services and both parent broadcasters, the first of which will air in 1998. From Survival, DCI has licenced global rights to 180 hours intended for Animal Planet and 100 hours for its European and Latin American services, as well as picking up 100 hours of indie programming from itel’s catalogue. On the production side, DCI and Survival will coproduce a minimum of 32 hours over the next six years.


Marcos Obadia, former president of San Francisco’s Click 3 West, has taken on responsibility for Discovery’s Miami-based, 50,000 sq. foot digital post and transmission facility. As vp operations for the DCI Latin American Television Center, Obadia is currently staffing the facility, expected to employ more than 70 engineers and technicians.

New York-based Fox Lorber Associates, a division of WinStar New Media, has named Johanna Samuel vp of international sales and coproductions. The newly created position, part of Fox Lorber’s new strategy for international indie films, will see Samuel responsible for setting up international copros and packaging film products for distribution in the domestic and overseas markets. Samuel is a former theatrical acquisitions and coproductions exec from Warner Bros. International.

Also in Upfront:

-Disney goes back to nature

-Paramount boosts its reality slate with Wild Things

-Discovery’s Latin American Buy

-New Canadian Cable Apps

-TVNZ’s Natural History Unit goes on the block. And the winner is. . .

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.