With United Wildlife absorbed into Granada’s United Productions, the U.K. broadcast entity has rounded out its factual slate. Says John Drury, Granada International’s new head of factual and wildlife, ‘United Wildlife adds a string to our bow because our existing in-house production companies, Granada TV and London Weekend Television, don’t have strong track records in wildlife. [It's] definitely an addition in value and range, and we’re glad to inherit that.’
However, Drury notes that the drop in demand for wildlife programming is a challenge. ‘Obviously wildlife is facing its own problems in the market, and we’ll have to look at that as well. But wildlife is beginning to reinvent itself.’
Tom Archer, controller of factual for United Productions, agrees: ‘I think both natural history outfits [under the United Wildlife umbrella], Partridge and Survival, are finding that they have to operate in a new world in which pure natural history is a much smaller proportion of the programs made.’
Partridge producer Rob Harvey says the transition to United Productions has been fairly uneventful, although both insiders and outsiders are waiting for the dust to settle. Harvey notes that Animal Planet currently has an output deal on hold. ‘They’re probably waiting for us to sort everything out.’ He adds that Partridge has set a January deadline to develop ideas that will fit with Archer’s vision for the prodco as a more ‘populist’ (presenter-led) wildlife producer (see RealScreenPlus Dec. 13, 2000).
Despite filling a hole in Granada’s factual lineup, United Wildlife can’t afford to rest on its laurels. Says Harvey, ‘We’re not smug about the fact that Granada hasn’t got a wildlife section per se. We know that we’re still going to have to fight to be heard and produce some top quality programming. Also, the recent change in the broadcasting laws means that it’s very possible Carlton and Granada will merge within 18 months, and there are overlap areas with Carlton. We have to be very careful.’