Sally Miles [pictured], the passionate CEO of the aptly-named Passion Distribution, has been building the company’s catalog of reality and factual entertainment steadily since she opened up the London boutique last year. Here, she speaks with realscreen about trends, selling Jon & Kate Plus 8 to international buyers and Passion’s new offerings.
Relationships are key at Passion, evident in Miles’ recent two-week jaunts to New York and L.A., where she met with U.S. clients. She credits a combination of support, loyalty and hard work for growing the company since its launch. ‘A lot of people knew me from my previous company [iD Distribution] and the team that came across as well to join me at Passion; we had already built some fantastic relationships,’ says Miles. ‘We’ve been trusted, not only to work really hard in the marketplace, but [to] deliver good results for producers in terms of revenue and content.’
Part of that hard work includes taking on the duty of knowing the marketplace very well. A major trend in programming, according to Miles, involves really strong character driven programming. ‘It’s interesting how game shows 12 months ago were high on the agenda; they’re less so in the moment,’ she says. ‘I think most broadcasters found their game shows [which] are doing well for them, so they’re looking for other breakout hits and shows.’ She’s also seeing an abundance of feel-good programming, events and long-running factual.
In terms of business, any previous patterns have shifted in the wake of the turbulent global financial picture. ‘Given the economy and what our business and all businesses have gone through in the last 12-18 months, I think what this has done is take any trend and any pattern of business [and thrown it] completely out the window.’ She adds, ‘Those months that in the past have been on trend to be your busiest months, that isn’t the case now.’
Content-wise, Passion is looking for strong and compelling formats with a unique approach, predominantly about strong characters. Currently the distributor is selling a TLC Christmas special, Invasion of the Christmas Lights, which is being billed as a Christmas special with a twist. It has sold to Kanal 5 in Sweden, MNET in South Africa, XYZ Networks for the Lifestyle Channel in Australia, TV3 in New Zealand and TV Norge in Norway. Miles is also excited about a new World of Wonder-produced series for VH1, Fantasia, focused on the season three American Idol winner. ‘[Her] life went out [of sorts] in a bit of a car crash with bankruptcy and home notices and all sorts of disaster around her. We’ve got a series about her relaunching her career,’ says Miles. Passion will be sending out episodes to prospective buyers shortly.
The catalog also includes two other World of Wonder productions, season two of Ru Paul’s Drag Race for LOGO and VH1 and Beekman Farm for Planet Green, as well as The Big Fat Family Challenge.
Passion also works with Figure 8 Films, the producers of Jon & Kate Plus 8. While a tabloid sensation in North America, Miles admits that it’s a bit of a different phenomenon in other territories.
‘It’s taken a while for them to really react to it and pay attention to it,’ she says of its international reception. She chalks that up to the first two seasons being a very domestic, contained U.S. program. ‘The headlines and the drama that have ensued have opened this up and created a lot more interest around that title so we now have broadcasters in Australia and other territories who are airing the show.’
And with the current show at a standstill due to lawsuits and countersuits between the network and Jon Gosselin, Miles isn’t seeing any holes being created in the international schedules, since broadcasters have only started to buy into seasons. ‘We’re so far behind I’m sure that by then it’ll be clear what the future is with the show and Jon and Kate [if they're] separate, together [or] who knows?’ says Miles.