Fremantle is not only one of the most successful producers when it comes to factual television (How Clean is Your House, Grand Designs) but it is also one of the most well known and successful distributors of factual television and formats (Idol, Got Talent, The X Factor). Mark Gray, VP of programming for Fremantle Enterprises, the commercial arm of the company, says the key to the company’s success is not becoming complacent because of past success and spending a lot of time forging relationships with producers to make sure he’s in the right place at the right time when the next big thing comes along.
‘We’re not like the BBC – particularly in factual – or Granada where their programs are coming down the conveyor belt,’ says Gray. ‘That’s made life harder but it’s also, I think, made us stronger.’ Not having a flow of ready-made programs coming to him has made it necessary for Gray to keep his ear to the ground and his eyes peeled for who’s making the best factual programs. ‘Some new British distributors are so focused on the UK. We look in the places where the good programming is going to come from.’
On one hand that could be Original Productions’ Thom Beers who Fremantle Enterprises is working with and who creates what Gray classifies as a sub genre of blue collar observational doc programs; the kind of thing everyone’s after. On the other, Gray’s looking for blue chip docs such as History of Christianity which Fremantle is working on with Pioneer for Channel 4. While blue chip continues to be his focus, Gray says Fremantle’s looking for a range of factual fare, from reality, to ob docs, to lifestyle. ‘My goal is to build relationships with the right people, and I want to make sure they know we’re there when the right thing comes along,’ says Gray.