Shine Television’s joint managing director Karen Smith recently announced the creation of a factual unit at the company, which had previously specialized in drama, entertainment and features. The aim of this new venture is to create hybrid programs by mixing entertainment values with specialist subjects in event-sized scale, says Smith. And when the search was on to find someone to head this new unit, Natalie Humphreys was a sure fit.
Humphreys, who has previously worked as creative director at Parthenon Entertainment, as well as working in the BBC Specialist Factual Unit and heading the specialist factual unit at Imago Productions, was consulting for factual indies before taking the job at Shine. We caught up with her right before she left for the World Congress of Science and Factual.
What are your plans for Shine?
It’s very good timing for me having the science and factual market now – going to see all the usual suspects wearing this new hat. It should be interesting to see their reaction. I’ve had a lot of nice notes and phone calls from buyers and heads of channels, following my appointment announcement… They’re excited. This week will be the first step in procuring ideas on the slate.
What do you see for the near future of factual programming?
One of the things that’s coming out now is that factual should see a bit of an upturn because of the credit crunch, certainly [in the UK]. Drama is that much more expensive and entertainment is very expensive. I’m seeing channels pulling back on entertainment, even things that were up and running and in production are being cut back. There’s a lot of that going on. I think factual will fare quite well because it’s proved that it never stops getting fantastic ratings and it costs half the price.
That’s my plan, I can say, ‘come on guys, we can do this lovely stuff.’ What’s great for us is that we go in there with a high quality calling card and we know how to handle specialist factual on very good budgets. Around here, channels are saying whatever spend we do we want it to pack a punch in the schedule. We understand that.
What makes Shine the kind of place you want to work?
What Karen Smith did just prior to me joining, which is all part of the same plan, was created a centralized development team from which all ideas – history, drama, features, whatever – are derived. Working within a cohesive creative group is great. It means that ideas aren’t ghettoized before they’re even out there and you can approach a broadcaster with much more flexibility to talk about how you might execute it.