The preeminent PBS science series NOVA has gained awards and accolades over its 35 years. Paula S. Apsell, NOVA’s senior executive producer, talks with realscreen about the keys to its longevity and the newly announced NOVA and National Geographic Television partnership.
The new partnership announced at MIP will bring NOVA and NGT together to coproduce four programs every year. NGT will market them internationally and NOVA will broadcast them in the US and market them on DVD in the US.
Apsell says that collaboration is everything. ‘At a time when resources are harder and harder to come by, if you find a partner dedicated to the same mission, with a complementary skill set and a complementary financial model, that’s just the best thing that can happen.’
The ‘a ha’ moment just happened between NOVA and National Geographic Television. Having previously partnered on two productions in 2007, Great Inca Rebellion and Ape Genius, the idea came to NGT’s John Bredar and Apsell that an official multiyear collaboration should be instated.
Apsell credits a loyal viewership with a genuine interest in real science and current research for keeping the show on the air for 35 years. But it has been the productions themselves that has been keeping those viewers tuning in. Produced by WGBH, Apsell says keeping fresh is one of the keys in sticking around. ‘In adopting modern styles, using technology as a way to improve our program and increasing the pace, but not so fast that you can’t actually have any depth,’ says Apsell, are the methods by which NOVA’s programs remain relevant.
Making science popular, not an easy task according to Apsell, is another necessary requirement to the series. Striking the balance between making a show watchable without sacrificing the substance, is the challenge. That’s tough, but even more so considering the subjects and obstacles that NOVA takes on. ‘We are a mission-driven organization, being funded and supported by PBS and we have to be doing shows that other broadcasters wouldn’t touch, because they’re too difficult, too controversial, too expensive, too challenging in terms of the difficulty of the subject matter,’ says Apsell.