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Let the Hunt Begin

The key to any great program is finding and following the subject. The trick is knowing where to look for one's prey in the great outdoors before the budget runs out. Knowing the details of a channel's strand could mean the difference between a sure-shot and a wild goose chase. With that goal in mind, RealScreen has compiled a list of natural history/wildlife strands from the major factual-television territories.
September 1, 2003

The key to any great program is finding and following the subject. The trick is knowing where to look for one’s prey in the great outdoors before the budget runs out.

The same logic holds true for finding the appropriate natural history strand, especially in this period of higher competition for fewer slots. Knowing the details of a channel’s strand could mean the difference between a sure-shot and a wild goose chase. With that goal in mind, RealScreen has compiled a list of natural history/wildlife strands from the major factual-television territories.

In conducting the research, RealScreen approached over 40 broadcasters in 15 countries. Taken as a whole, the list offers a ready-at-hand directory of natural history strands, and provides a high-level view of the state of wildlife programming today. Arranged alphabetically by country, broadcaster and strand, each entry indicates what types of programs the broadcaster is seeking. In many cases, it also reports how much a buyer is willing to offer in terms of acquisition fees and doc-production funding. Happy hunting.

AUSTRALIA

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Based in: Sydney

Strand: ‘Richard Morecroft Goes Wild’

Description: ABC’s showcase natural history offering specializes in bringing the world’s wildlife to Australia.

When: Saturday 6:30 P.M.; 30 minutes

Program types: One-offs and series of up to six episodes

Program origin: Mainly acquisitions, with some in-house productions; no commissions

Money talk: Fees from AUS$5,000 to $8,000 (US$3,300 to $5,200)

Commissioning editor: Dione Gilmour, gilmour.dione@abc.net.au; (Acquisitions) Marena Manzoufas, manzoufas.marena@abc.net.au

Insider tip: ABC sometimes takes short, half-hour nat-history series specials and carries wildlife one-offs in its other primetime doc slots, as well as occasional ‘seasons’ (six to eight weeks long) – e.g., this December it’s planning a natural history season.

AUSTRIA

ORF

Based in: Wien

Strand: ‘Universum’

Description: Launched in 1987, ‘Universum’ concentrates on European environmental topics, but also pursues internationally focused stories about the wild world. It specializes in blue-chip wildlife programs on Tuesdays, and expedition, archaeology, history and nature on Thursdays.

When: Tuesday and Thursday 8:15 P.M.; 2 x 45 minutes

Program types: One-offs and mini-series. Series longer than 6 x 45 minutes tend to be transmitted one episode per month.

Program origin: Mostly coproductions, with acquisitions and commissions making up the balance

Money talk: The Incredible Hulik, a 2002 orf coproduction, had a US$400,000 budget.

Commissioning editor: Walter Koehler, walter.koehler@orf.at

CANADA

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Based in: Toronto

Strand: ‘The Nature of Things’

Description: Specializes in programs relating to wildlife and the environment, plus science, technology and Third World issues.

When: Wednesday 7 P.M.; two versions – a 44-minute domestic and a 52-minute international

Program types: One-offs and mini-series of up to three episodes

Program origin: Acquisitions, as well as coproductions with independents and other broadcasters

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Michael Allder, Michael_Allder@cbc.ca

Insider tip: Wide-screen productions preferred. Now in its 44th season in Canada, ‘The Nature of Things’ is seen in over 70 countries.

Discovery Channel Canada

Based in: Toronto

Strand: ‘Wacky and Wild’

Description: This anthology targets kids and consists of fun, fast-paced and informative animal stories. ‘Wacky & Wild’ is the home for programs full of cute and cuddly critters.

When: Monday and Tuesday 6 P.M.; one hour, but will consider 30-minute episodes

Program types: One-offs, mini-series or series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: Financing for up to 30% of the production budget

Commissioning editor: (Acquisitions) Shannan LaMorre, slamorre@discovery.ca; (Copros) Sam Linton, slinton@discovery.ca

Strand: ‘Wild Discovery’

Description: Natural history with an edge. Fierce and ferocious predators are the focus – the more bites the better.

When: Wednesday and Thursday 8 P.M.; one hour, but will consider 30-minute episodes

Program types: One-offs, mini-series and series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: Financing for up to 30% of the production budget

Commissioning editor: (Acquisitions) Shannan LaMorre, slamorre@discovery.ca; (Copros) Sam Linton, slinton@discovery.ca

Insider tip: Discovery Canada says its natural history programming is struggling to deliver audiences, so it’s looking for new ways to present the genre. The channel wants programs that are strong in the two extremes: predators and lovable fuzzballs.

FRANCE

ARTE

Based in: Strasbourg

Strand: As yet unnamed

Description: Profiles the plants and animals of specific regions around the world; presents exotic animals and what makes them unique; and probes the way humans and wildlife coexist in many parts of the world today.

When: As part of a scheduling shake-up, this strand will be integrated into a weekday 7 P.M. doc strand beginning in January 2004. So, nat-history will appear regularly, but not necessarily always on the same night. Currently it runs Monday 7 P.M.; 43 minutes.

Program types: One-offs, with occasional mini-series and series

Program origin: Copros and acquisitions are possible via ARD, ZDF and, in small numbers, ARTE G.E.I.E.

Money talk: ARTE can contribute between 50,000 euros and 60,000 euros (US$55,500 and $66,600) to a production’s budget.

Commissioning editor: Kornelia Theune, k-theune@arte-tv.com

Canal +

Based in: Paris

Strand: ‘Sunday Escape’

Description: Wildlife documentaries and some adventure docs

When: Sunday 5 P.M.; one hour

Program types: One-offs, with some series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Evi Fullenbach,

evi.fullenbach@canal-plus.com

Insider tip: Starting in September, the strand will feature a studio introduction by Stéfan Etcheverry, a rugby star turned journalist.

France 5

Based in: Paris

Strand: No name

Description: A family-oriented wildlife strand that features top-of-the-line blue-chip docs. The broadcaster says it is popular with parents of young children, because the images don’t require parental screening.

When: Monday to Friday 11 A.M., Saturday 3 P.M.; 50 minutes

Program types: One offs, mini-series and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, with a few copros

Money talk: Acquisition fees range from approximately 8,000 euros to 12,500 euros (US$8,900 to $13,900).

Commissioning editor: Ann Julienne, ajulienne@france5.fr

Planète

Based in: Paris

Strand: ‘Hour of the Beasts’

Description: Family-oriented wildlife programs

When: Daily 8:15 P.M.; 30 minutes

Program types: One-offs, mini-series and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and in-house productions

Money talk: Acquisition fees are 3,350 euros/hour (US$3,700).

Commissioning editor: Olivier Stroh, olivier.stroh@mth.net

Insider tip: Once a month, Planète programs 2 x 1-hour thematic evenings that generally focus on mammals and their family groups. With more than 260 slots to fill annually, the channel says it will consider series of virtually any length.

FINLAND

YLE

Based in: Helsinki

Strand: ‘Wide Nature’

Description: A weekly primetime family slot for the best wildlife films from around the world. Twenty years running, the strand shows blue-chip films and series with strong stories about wildlife species or habitats.

When: Saturday 6:40 P.M.; 45 to 55 minutes

Program types: One-offs; some mini-series of up to four episodes

Program origin: Foreign acquisitions, except for one or two Finnish indie productions per year

Money talk: Acquisition fees are 2,800 euros to 3,100 euros (US$3,100 to $3,400) per hour.

Commissioning editor: Katja Solla, katja.solla@yle.fi

Insider tip: YLE TV1 mainly looks for blue-chip films with no or little human interaction for its slots.

GERMANY

ARD

Based in: Hamburg

Strand: ‘Expedition into the Animal World’

Description: Programs range from classic wildlife films to cutting-edge natural history shows. They are meant to entertain and give information to people who love wildlife and nature, especially young and elder viewers.

When: Irregular, mainly on ‘festival days’ and public holidays, and occasionally Tuesday or Wednesday at 9:45 P.M.; 45 minutes

Program types: One-offs; some mini-series of up to four episodes

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and in-house productions

Money talk: Budget financing ranges from 50,000 euros to 500,000 euros (US$55,500 to $555,000).

Commissioning editor: (NDR) Wolf Lengwenus, w.lengwenus@ndr.de

Insider tip: ‘Expedition’ is open to a variety of programming styles, including presenter-led shows, reenactments (e.g., the natural world of the Middle Ages in Salamanders Secret) and pure wildlife.

JAPAN

NHK

Based in: Tokyo

Strand: ‘The Global Family’

Description: As the name suggests, the focus of ‘The Global Family’ is wide open: it is geared to all age groups, presenting new facts, evidence or discoveries about a topic in detail.

When: Monday 8 P.M.; 43 minutes

Program types: Single-subject one-offs only

Program origin: About six programs are coproduced per year. The rest are produced in-house or commissioned to Japanese indies.

Money talk: The 6 x 1-hour NHK copro The Equator, slated for delivery in late 2004, is budgeted at about US$800,000 per hour.

Commissioning editor: Masaru Ikeo, ikeo.m-gq@nhk.or.jp

SOUTH AFRICA

South African Broadcasting Corporation

Based in: Johannesburg

Strand: No name

Description: Referred to internally as SABC3′s blue-chip slot, it predominantly runs family-oriented nat-history programs. The audience is defined as high-income urban dwellers, so the broadcaster strives to provide a variety of cutting-edge and trend-setting docs ‘that will make for talked-about television.’

When: Sunday 6 P.M.; one hour, or sometimes 2 x 30 minutes

Program types: One-offs and series in English only (no subtitles)

Program origin: Almost exclusively foreign acquisitions

Money talks: US$3,000 to $5,000 per hour for foreign acquisitions

Commissioning editor: (Acquisitions) Hanka Sonnekus-Roos, sonnekushr@sabc.co.za

Insider tip: The SABC says it is currently ‘very selective’ because ‘there is an oversupply of product’ in the market. They are particularly interested in one-offs that take a unique look at the natural world. The broadcaster told RealScreen it does not offer commissions, but might look at coproductions in the future.

SWEDEN

SVT2

Based in: Stockholm

Strand: ‘Naturfilm’

Description: ‘The most exquisite nature docs’ available internationally. It transmits nat-history programs of almost any style and focus, including sea-life docs. The broadcaster inserts a short studio intro into acquired films.

When: Tuesday 8 P.M.; one hour

Program types: One-offs and series of up to 10 episodes

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and a few in-house

Money talk: Varies between SEK 4 million and 7 million (US$480,000 and $836,400).

Commissioning editor: Eugen Plym-Forshell,

eugen.plym-forshell@svt.se

UNITED KINGDOM

British Broadcasting Corporation

Based in: London

Strand: ‘The Natural World’

Description: The Beeb touts this strand as ‘celebrating the many wonders of nature with some of the finest wildlife photography on television today’.

When: At press time, was on a scheduling break – season runs October to March; normally 50 minutes long

Program types: Mainly one-offs

Program origin: In-house productions, copros and commissions

Money talk: About £930,000 to £1.2 million (US$1.5 million to $1.9 million) per program

Commissioning editor: Mike Gunton, mike.gunton@bbc.co.uk

Strand: ‘Wildlife on One’

Description: Through ‘Wildlife on One’ the Beeb experiments with the genre, seeking out stories that surprise, intrigue and have humor, as well as increased levels of information.

When: At press time, was on a scheduling break – season runs October to March; primarily 30 minutes

Program types: One-offs

Program origin: In-house productions, copros and commissions

Money talk: About £930,000 to £1.2 million (US$1.5 million to $1.9 million) per program

Commissioning editor: Sara Ford, sara.ford@bbc.co.uk

Strand: ‘Wildlife Specials’

Description: Created to mark the 40th anniversary of the BBC Natural History Unit in 1997, ‘Wildlife Specials’ programs feature well-known doc-makers, such as Neil Nightingale, capturing animal ‘superstars’ in creative ways. Recent and upcoming titles include Bear: Spy in the Wood, Elephants: Spy in the Herd and Chimpanzee.

When: Sunday 9 P.M. (BBC 1); 50 minutes

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: In-house productions, copros and commissions

Money talk: Monkey Mafia, a recently completed one-hour one-off coproduced by the Beeb and a number of French partners, carried a budget of approximately 1 million euros (US$1.1 million).

Commissioning editor: Sara Ford, sara.ford@bbc.co.uk

UNITED STATES

Animal Planet U.S.

Based in: Silver Spring

Strand: ‘Animal Planet Safari’

Description: Emphasizes programs that chronicle the full spectrum of animal life on Earth; past doc subjects include arctic wildlife migrating across the tundra and Africa’s big cats.

When: Saturday 8 P.M.; three-hour block

Program types: One-offs, mini-series or series, including two-hour specials

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and in-house productions

Money talk: The Most Extreme, a 12 x 60-minute series for AP, had a budget of $2.3 million.

Commissioning editor: Chris Lara, chris_lara@discovery.com

Insider tip: Overall, AP is trying to create theme nights for better audience flow from hour to hour, and so is open to new and innovative ideas on how to present natural history to its target demographic, viewers 25 to 54 years of age.

Strand: ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom’

Description: Spotlights one-offs and blue-chip docs. Titles include Danger Under the Ice and Cave Elephants.

When: Quarterly specials, Sunday 7 P.M.; one hour

Program types: One-offs only

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and in-house productions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Chris Lara, chris_lara@discovery.com

Strand: ‘Growing Up….’

Description: Follows baby wild animals in their first year of existence. Each episode focuses on a different species.

When: Weekly time slot to be decided; one hour

Program types: One-offs only

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and in-house productions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Chris Lara, chris_lara@discovery.com

Insider tip: Seeking programs that are ‘warm and fuzzy’ and feature Hollywood celebrities as hosts.

Animal Planet International

Based in: Silver Spring

Strand: ‘Animal Planet Showcase’

Description: The broadcaster’s top-draw slot, primarily for major premieres of one-offs. Its target age group is 25 to 54.

When: Monday 10 P.M.; one hour

Program types: Mainly one-offs

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: State of the Great Ape, a 120-minute upcoming special for AP/API, is budgeted at about US$630,000.

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: AP is currently seeking only acquisitions for ‘Showcase’.

Strand: ‘Fame’

Description: Highlights both rising animal actors and novices, from their training for feature movies to crazy pet behavior. Strand anchors include The Planet’s Funniest Animals and Wild on the Set.

When: Tuesday 8 P.M.; two one-hours, usually

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: At press time, AP was not actively seeking new content for ‘Fame.’

Strand: ‘On the Edge’

Description: Adventures between people and wildlife ‘at their wildest.’ The broadcaster is relying on its inventory of hosted series, such as The Crocodile Hunter and The Jeff Corwin Experience.

When: Monday 8 P.M.; two one-hours, usually

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: At press time, Animal Planet was not actively seeking content for ‘On the Edge’.

Strand: ‘The Protectors’

Description: A close-up look at ‘everyday heroes’ who work to help animals in distress or suffering abuse. Programs such as Animal Precinct and Miami Animal Vice profile rescues and the rescuers.

When: Wednesday 8 P.M.; two one-hours, usually

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: At press time, AP was not actively seeking content for ‘The Protectors’.

Strand: ‘Revealed’

Description: Programs probe the psychology of animal behavior. For instance, are some famously aggressive beasts, such as the coral snake, really so bold or is their reputation built on perception alone?

When: Friday 8 P.M.; two one-hours, usually

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: At press time, AP was not actively seeking content for this strand.

Strand: ‘Unexplained and Unexplored’

Description: Apparently, humans aren’t the only ones who have paranormal experiences. This strand takes a look at both the legends and the hidden truths behind what seem like otherworldly animal attributes. Feature programs include Weird Nature, Twisted Tales and Supernatural: the Unseen Powers of Animals.

When: Thursday 8 P.M.; two one-hours, usually

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions and coproductions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Andrea Vieira, andrea_vieira@discovery.com

Insider tip: At press time, AP was not actively seeking content for ‘Unexplained and Unexplored.’

Discovery Networks International

Based in: Silver Spring

Strand: ‘Wild Discovery’ (multiterritory)

Description: Flora and fauna from around the globe are profiled in each program. From the Serengeti to the outback, from the Komodo dragon to the praying mantis, this strand spotlights them all.

When: Monday to Friday; one hour. Time varies by region: Australia/New Zealand, 6:30 P.M.; India, 7 P.M.; Italy, 5 P.M.; Japan, 6 P.M. (rest of Asia, 9 P.M.); Latin America, Spain and Portugal, 7 P.M.

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Varies by territory

Discovery Channel U.S.

Based in: Silver Spring

Strand: ‘Wild Discovery’

Description: Distinctive, original, captivating portraits of the topic covered. Discovery Networks wants to present innovative and compelling natural history docs.

When: Daily, one hour

Program types: One-offs and mini-series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Maureen Lemire, maureen_lemire@discovery.com

Insider tip: Discovery’s natural history special series and mini-series, such as the BBC coproductions Life of Mammals and Blue Planet, are handled separately from ‘Wild Discovery’.

National Geographic Channels International

Based in: Washington, D.C.

Strand: N/A

Description: NGCI doesn’t package or promote any particular nat-history strand, says Bryan Smith, executive VP of programming and production for the Washington, D.C.-based company. NGCI helps commission and acquire natural history programming for each of the Nat Geo channels that serve 145 countries worldwide. As a result, Nat Geo wildlife strands vary from territory to territory.

When: Weekdays, varies by time zone; 30 minutes or one hour

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: Wild Orphans, a 6 x 30-minute series commissioned for NGCI, had a budget of US$30,000 per episode.

Commissioning editor: Varies from territory to territory

Insider tip: Nat Geo works with producers to find additional funding if it does not cover the full budget. Additionally, Nat Geo International notes natural history one-offs are present in region-specific ‘anthologies’ and slotted throughout Nat Geo U.S.’s primetime grid and on theme nights or weeks.

National Geographic Channel U.S.

Based in: Washington, D.C.

Strand: ‘Living Wild’

Description: Fascinating stories of animal behavior and the remarkable experts who share this behavior with the viewer.

When: Friday 8 P.M.; two one-hours

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Mike Mavretic, mmavretic@natgeochannels.com

Insider tip: A presenter-led, experiential approach to showing animal behavior is preferred. Presenters, where used, should be experts in the field. Nat Geo maintains a ‘liberal’ mandate for this strand, and is open to proposals.

Strand: ‘Nature’s Nightmares’

Description: An anthology that features the creatures that can make your skin crawl. Sewer rats, hairy spiders, carnivorous bats – you get the picture.

When: Tuesday 9 P.M., one hour

Program types: One-offs and series

Program origin: Acquisitions, copros and commissions

Money talk: N/A

Commissioning editor: Mike Mavretic, mmavretic@natgeochannels.com

Insider tip: As with ‘Living Wild’, a presenter-led, experiential approach to showing animal behavior is preferred. Presenters, where used, should be an expert in the field. Nat Geo is open to proposals for this strand.

Public Broadcasting Service

Thirteen/WNET

Based in: New York

Strand: ‘Nature’

Description: Broadly covers natural history topics, but with an emphasis on wildlife in all parts of the world. Thirteen seeks ‘rich and meaningful programs about the natural world with strong storylines and stunning cinematography, while embracing emerging technologies.’

When: Sunday 8 P.M.; one hour

Program types: One-offs and mini-series of no more than three parts

Program origin: Primarily copros and commissions

Money talk: Program budgets range from US$300,000 to $500,000 per hour. Larger budgets for blue-chip films

Commissioning editor: Fred Kaufman, Kaufman@thirteen.org

Insider tip: ‘Nature’ is the only place on PBS’s national schedule for indie-produced wildlife docs.

About The Author
Selina Chignall joins the realscreen team as a staff writer. Prior to working with rs, she covered lobbying activity at Hill Times Publishing. She also spent a year covering the Hill as a journalist with iPolitics. Her beat focused on youth, education, democratic reform, innovation and infrastructure. She holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University and a Honours Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

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