After testing the waters with U.K. distributor Explore International, Natural History New Zealand has decided to take the plunge. The Kiwi prodco has committed to provide Explore with at least 60 hours of new programming and over 100 hours from its back catalog. Explore has handled only about ten to 15 hours of NHNZ’s output since they first partnered in 1999.
Managing director for NHNZ Michael Stedman says the decision is indicative of the production company’s expanding slate. ‘It reflects the growth that’s gone on here over the last three years. We’ve doubled almost every year during that time.’ He estimates the current rate of production to be 50 to 60 programs annually and expects that to increase to an average of 70 to 80 shows per year in the future.
Stedman says NHNZ considered providing more content to Fox International (NHNZ is owned by Fox), but reasoned that it would be more sensible to further the relationship with Explore. ‘[Explore] has a significant track record as a specialist distribution company, especially in natural history, and from there is widening out into other factual genres. There are very, very few specialist distributors in the world.’
In terms of the arrangement with Fox, he says, ‘We are making a range of programs that are more entertainment based – these are typically series [Adventure Central, Twisted Tales] – and Fox is really good at those programs, but they’re not strong in the more traditional natural history/science areas. So, the entertainment-based programs [will stay] with Fox.’
Chances are slim that there are any hard feelings, especially since Explore is a distant relation in the News Corp family. Stedman explains: ‘Explore is 50% owned by National Geographic Television [Canal + owns the other half], and our parent, Fox/News Corp, owns a significant amount of National Geographic [U.S. channel], so there’s sort of a loose family connection.’
The new programs that NHNZ has licensed to Explore include: Aleutians: Cradle of the Storms, a 2 x 1-hour copro with OPB and NHK; Kill or Cure: The Bizarre and Curious History of Medicine, a 6 x 1-hour series for Discovery Health; and Extreme Force, a 6 x 1- hour series about the biophysics of extreme sports.