The first quarter of 2003 has heralded good news for doc producers: Silver Spring, U.S.-based Discovery Channel U.S. and Mainz, Germany-based TV network ZDF each launched new factual strands.
Discovery Channel turned on the one-hour ‘Spotlight’ at the end of February. Running the last Wednesday of each month at 10 P.M., the strand’s programming is driven by real events, explains Andrea Meditch, Discovery’s director of development.
‘Spotlight’ debuted with Bioterror: The Invisible Enemy, a Tom Brokaw-led copro with New York, U.S.-based NBC News Productions. The doc looks at Brokaw’s own experience during the anthrax attacks in the U.S. in fall 2001, as well as examines biochemical weapons on a larger scale. ‘It’s an important and pressing issue, but this is a more personal way of looking at it,’ Meditch points out.
Noting that the strand will carry only 12 hours in its first year, she says it is part of a drive to bring issues-oriented fare ‘back up to the fore’ at Discovery.
Although ‘Spotlight’ is not currently open to submissions, Meditch maintains, ‘Spotlight’ ‘is creating an opening [for Discovery] to work with a very broad range of people in the independent community.’
ZDF debuted a daily wildlife slot in late January. The 43-minute slot airs weekdays at 4:15 P.M. and represents a major boost to natural history programming on the channel, says Nikolas Hülbusch, the project manager for documentary coproductions and development at ZDF Enterprises, a unit of ZDF.
‘There was not so much wildlife on ZDF’ over the past two years, he says. For the time being, the new strand will rely heavily on acquisitions and ZDF’s own catalog, ‘because the budget is rather limited’ for this slot, Hülbusch adds.
ZDF also locked in a new Sunday-night doc strand as part of a distribution deal with AETN International, the sales arm of New York-based A&E. Called ‘ZDF History’, it features both ZDF-funded films and acquisitions. The strand launched on February 9.