The allure of non-fiction programming has proven irresistible for Toronto-based companies Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting and Fireworks Entertainment. Each has already made significant forays into the realms of children’s and dramatic television productions, and now plan to expand into the factual arena by this fall as well.
Fireworks is part of the CanWest Entertainment Group, the production arm of parent company CanWest Global Communications, which has a stake in such broadcasters as Australia’s network ten, TV3 and TV4 New Zealand, TV3 Ireland, and Global in Canada.
Alliance Atlantis produces both TV and film projects, and shares ownership in seven Canadian specialty channels, including Home & Garden, History Television and the Life Network. The company has also submitted applications for such new Canadian digital channels as The Independent Film and Documentary Channel and the Food Network.
Spurred by the proliferation of niche channels and the Internet’s potential, Michael MacMillan, chairman/CEO of communications for Alliance Atlantis, says the time is right. ‘It’s been clear to most observers that given a choice, people are increasingly choosing to watch non-fiction programming . . . If we’ve seen a move away from fiction to non-fiction, it’ll turn into a stampede when programs are available in library format via the Internet.’
MacMillan says his company will be looking to both produce and distribute factual content reflecting some of their channels’ categories, though it won’t be restricted to these. ‘It’ll be a mixture of the high impact, higher budget projects, as well as volume series.’ Alliance Atlantis will be producing some programs in-house, but will also look to coproductions and international acquisitions. Budget and leadership are still to be determined.
As for Fireworks, Greg Phillips, president of Fireworks International (the international distribution division), told Playback at MIPTV in April that his company will have a separate division for non-fiction programming by MIPCOM in October. He confirmed the acquisition of eight, one-hour episodes of Mugshots, a series from New York-based producer Parco Entertainment for Court TV.