Docs

2009: The Year that Was

We at realscreen hopped in our homemade time machine and traveled through the course of the past year to encapsulate the many happenings of 2009. As you'd expect, a lot took place over 12 months. Take a peek at the year that was 2009...
December 21, 2009

We at realscreen hopped in our homemade time machine and traveled through the course of the past year to encapsulate the many happenings of 2009. As you’d expect, a lot took place over 12 months. From acquisitions to zany hoaxes involving homemade balloons… Take a peek at the year that was 2009…

JANUARY

Towers Productions announces restructuring, creating a post-production and equipment rental unit in addition to the production unit…Lionsgate buys TV Guide Network and TVGuide.com… RDF USA announces appointment of Lauren Gellert as senior vice president… Discussions start around potential of merging Channel 4 with Five after Ofcom’s public service broadcasting report… Current names James Baker as GM, UK… Endemol acquires Southern Star and announces the hiring of Paul Johnson as global head of marketing and brand partnerships and Martha Brass as deputy COO… Dan Brooke, the managing director of Discovery Networks UK, announces he’s leaving the company after four years. Sahar Elhabashi, COO of Discovery Networks International will take on his duties in the interim, says the company…The National Film Board of Canada, in its 70th anniversary year, announces online portal for streaming of its films… Mary Ellen Iwata is promoted to VP of Scripps Networks International… Christina Norman, ex-MTV and VH1, is named CEO of Discovery’s Oprah Winfrey Network… Digital Britain report from UK communications minister Stephen Carter is released… Warner Brothers cuts 800 employees… Reality producers ARE ordered to pay out $4 million in California wage rules lawsuit settlement… Steve Bailey is named MD of Lion Scotland… Ondi Timoner’s We Live in Public wins Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at Sundance, making Timoner the first director to win the award twice… Kim Longinotto’s Rough Aunties wins Sundance World Cinema Jury Prize for Documentary… UKTV Documentary rebrands as Eden…

FEBRUARY

Animal Planet HD goes international, launching in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland on Canal Digital… UKTV People rebrands as Blighty… NHK World TV relaunches… Realscreen Summit reports increase in attendance over 2008… Peter Adrichem is appointed MD of Endemol Netherlands, and Endemol Brasil is announced… UK-based Gecko Productions closes its doors… Geoff Gilmore moves from Sundance Film Festival to become CCO of Tribeca Enterprises… News stories emerge that the Canadian Broadcasting System is looking for a ‘bridge financing’ loan from Canadian government… Stuart Murphy is appointed director of programs at Sky1… CTV’s VP of docs, Bob Culbert, departs… AETN unveils its first iPhone app, The Paranormal State EMF Reader… FremantleMedia buys 75% stake in Original Productions… Laura Michalchyshyn joins Planet Green as GM…

MARCH

Adam Kemp, the BBC’s commissioning editor for arts, music, performance and religion, announces he is leaving the BBC… UKTV History rebrands as Yesterday… E! International Network launches in Romania… Mark Wild moves from Animal Planet to National Geographic Television… Hoff Productions opens NYC office, to be headed up by Jessica Winchell Morsa… Reveille appoints Noah Oppenheim as head of unscripted development… RDF USA adds Claire O’Donohoe as executive VP, Sunny Foscue as director of casting and Gerald Massimei as lead producer of development for its non-scripted team… History expands into Romania. Meanwhile, History Channel UK announces that Christina Foley will take over from Ian McDonough as commercial director… Bullseye Television names Ed Crick as MD…. John Cooper becomes director of Sundance Film Festival… New Scottish factual prodco, Matchlight, launches under DCD Media banner… Canadian doc fest Hot Docs announces record number of submissions for upcoming festival… Controversial British reality TV star Jade Goody succumbs to cancer… Iron Maiden doc Flight 666 wins best music doc award at SXSW… Sci Fi Channel announces it’s rebranding as Syfy… Rainbow Media signs carriage agreement for Sundance Channel with Numericable in France… FremantleMedia acquires stake in Wide-Eyed Entertainment… The Locker Room wins MIPDOC Coproduction Challenge, co-sponsored by realscreen and Reed MIDEM…

APRIL

Investigation Discovery launches in Russia, Poland, Romania, Hungary and Greece… September Films hires Steve Carsey as creative director… Discovery Networks International appoints Darcy Tomlin as VP of programming and business operations… Mark Fennessy and Carl Fennessy announce they will be leaving their positions as CEO and COO respectively of FremantleMedia Australia, to head up Shine Australia as joint CEOs. In other FME news, it teams up with Chinese prodco Asian Union to form joint venture Vision Ventures Media Ltd…. Canadian distributor Knightscove announces its non-binding letter of intent to acquire the operations of production company and distributor Ellis Entertainment… MIPTV organizers Reed MIDEM announce a 14% decline in delegates from last year… ABC News wins Peabody for Hopkins, doc on John Hopkins Hospital… Hot Docs honors Alanis Obomsawin with Outstanding Achievement Retrospective and Sheila Nevins with the Doc Mogul Award… Debbie Myers is promoted to head of Science Channel and Emerging Networks at Discovery Communications… Silverdocs names Sky Sitney as new artistic director… ITV announces that chief executive Michael Grade will step down to become non-executive chairman before the end of the year… KEO Films opens Glasgow office… UKTV Style rebrands as Home… MTV announces its new slate for 2009/2010, which it says will ‘reflect a directional shift geared toward the millennial generation’… The William Morris Agency, founded in 1898, and 14-year-old Endeavor merge to form William Morris Endeavor Entertainment… Frumpy Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle becomes global Internet sensation after her performance on the show goes viral…

MAY

Lightworks Program Distribution Inc. files for bankruptcy and closes its doors… Tribeca Film Festival names Racing Dreams as the best documentary feature. Director Marshall Curry’s winning film focused on the go-kart track… Season 5 premiere for Jon & Kate Plus 8 smashes ratings records for TLC… Joint managing directors Chris Fouracre and Martin Cunning resign from Eyeworks UK… realscreen unveils successful new event in Santa Monica: The Factual Entertainment Forum – The Real Deal… LMNO Productions signs three-year distro deal for outside the U.S. with Endemol’s Southern Star International… History announces major projects in its upfront, including America: The Story of US to be produced by Jane Root’s Nutopia and The People Speak, to be co-produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Chris Moore among others… Sundance Institute announces the appointment of Trevor Groth as director of programming for the Sundance Film Festival. He replaces John Cooper, who was upped to festival director…. CABLEready ups Liz Levenson from manager of programming to director of program development… Rob Clark, formerly FremantleMedia’s senior executive vice president, entertainment and production, worldwide entertainment is appointed president of worldwide entertainment… Hubert Davis’ Invisible City takes the award for Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs, while Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove takes the Audience Award. The festival marks a whopping 42% increase in attendance over the previous year… Travel Channel pres/GM Patrick Younge announces he’s leaving the post to return to London in 2010… Layoffs at CBC affect up to 180 employees from its English-language operations as the public broadcaster faced an ad revenue shortfall of $171 million… Five’s Ian Russell jumps to Cineflix for the role of director of co-production and executive producer.

JUNE

Britain’s Got Talent singing sensation Susan Boyle collapses after the finale, prompting a flurry of attention over mental health practices on reality competition shows… Shine Group announces it will open a division in France which will be headed up by former Endemol exec Thierry Lachkar… Brian Graden, president, entertainment, of MTV Networks Music Group and cable channel Logo, announces he’s leaving the posts at the end of the year… Discovery’s Oprah Winfrey Network builds its executive team and names Jamila Hunter, ex-NBC, as the new head of programming for the channel… Patrick Younge is announced as chief creative officer of BBC Vision… Henry Schleiff is appointed president and GM of Investigation Discovery… Ann Julienne returns to France Televisions after a year’s hiatus in a new role, head of international development… TLC puts Jon & Kate Plus 8 on hiatus after Jon & Kate separate… Allan King, the Canadian documentary filmmaker who was a pioneer of cinema vérité, dies at age 79… Former Southern Star International chief executive Cathy Payne is named chief executive of Endemol’s integrated distribution business… Online video portal Joost announces restructuring… FremantleMedia Enterprises names Jon Penn as CEO of its business for Asia Pacific… Distraction Formats closes its doors… MTV Networks lays off roughly 1 percent, or about 50 employees, of its workforce in what’s called a creatively-motivated decision… Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France, reports an increase of 6.4% from last year, with 1812 participants… Billy Mays, infomercial king and one of the hosts of Discovery’s Pitchmen passes on at 50… The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, dies at 50, prior to staging a series of concerts at London’s O2 Arena…

JULY

Ben Silverman, the co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, leaves to start up a new venture with Barry Diller’s media and Internet company IAC… Charles Tremayne, most recently the East Coast-based EVP for RDF USA, heads to Cineflix Productions as executive vice president of programming… Legendary newsman Walter Cronkite passes on at the age of 92… American Idol host Ryan Seacrest reportedly signs a $45 million deal with CKX, parent company of Idol producer 19 Entertainment, making him the highest paid reality host ever… NATPE announces Gary Mitchell as its European business development executive based in the UK… Chinese hackers take over Melbourne International Film Festival’s site, in response to a planned screening of Ten Conditions of Love, a documentary about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer… Parthenon Media Group Ltd., owned by CEO Carl Hall, acquires the assets and trading entities of Parthenon Entertainment Group Ltd. from Arkaga Healthcare and Technology Holdings… Murmurs emerge about John de Mol’s Talpa Media acquiring Bunim/Murray Productions… CBC cancels two doc strands, ‘The Lens’ and ‘Wild Docs’… German TV producer Christian Bauer, founder and CEO of Tangram Filmproduktion, passes away at the age of 61… Shed Media confirms that its executive directors have had preliminary talks with private equity firms concerning a possible buyout…

AUGUST

North Korea releases Current TV’s Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American journalists arrested in March, after a meeting between Bill Clinton and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il… Paula Abdul leaves her judge’s chair on American Idol permanently, leaving the post she held from the beginning. She tweets her goodbye… Channel 4 announces it will say goodbye to Big Brother after an 11th and final series of the landmark reality show… Confirming the rumors of the past few months, AETN and Lifetime merge, after the Disney-ABC TV, Hearst and NBC Universal deal goes through. AETN CEO and president Abbe Raven is tapped to oversee the merged companies… News of TIFF’s inaugural City to City program, spotlighting Tel Aviv, creates controversy…

SEPTEMBER

Endemol appoints Christoph Bürge as managing director of b&b Endemol, Switzerland… Discovery Networks International hires Helen Fox Gladwell as vice president, business affairs and programming legal, with responsibility for Discovery’s program acquisitions team across the UK and EMEA… UK factual media company, Ten Alps, signs a three-year distribution deal with BBC Worldwide (BBCW) for all of its broadcast factual TV content… FremantleMedia appoints Ian Hogg, most recently with MGM Worldwide, as chief executive officer for FremantleMedia Australia… The Qantas Film and Television Awards honors NHNZ, as the winning recipient of the first ever International Achievement Award… Endemol announces the formation of a global distribution operation, Endemol Worldwide Distribution, to be launched officially during MIPCOM… Ed Hersh is appointed to the newly created position of SVP strategic planning for Investigation Discovery… FremantleMedia Enterprises appoints Mel Alcock as CEO for EMEA… Non-fiction producer/distributor Off the Fence announces its expansion into North America with the opening of an office in New York, headed by Adam Block… Ellen DeGeneres is announced as a fourth judge on American Idol… Cineflix appoints Canadian media veteran Stephen Tapp as CEO of Cineflix Rights, to be based in the company’s Toronto office… TIFF unveils its inaugural Doc Conference… MTV premieres the Michael Jackson’s This Is It trailer during the MTV Movie Awards… WestDoc conference debuts in Santa Monica… David Cornwall, ex-senior executive for Zodiak Entertainment, announces launch of Scorpion TV, a specialist prodco and content distributor for MIPCOM 2009… Channel 4 CEO Andy Duncan confirms he’ll be departing from the broadcaster before the end of the year… Michael Moore calls capitalism a ‘Ponzi scheme’ at TIFF presser for Capitalism: A Love Story… Parthenon Entertainment Limited names Mike Shanks as the company’s first managing director… Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, is to step down from her role on the board of the BBC’s commercial arm, BBC Worldwide to ‘reduce the potential for conflicts of interest’… Leanne Pooley’s The Topp Twins gets People’s Choice doc award at TIFF… Intervention and The Amazing Race nab top reality Emmys… Fox Reality’s Bob Boden announces move to Hasbro Studios as head of its reality and game show division… Tokyo Film Fest announces it will screen Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove… BBC Trust announces it will review BBC1 and BBC2 for the first time… TLC announces plans for Jon & Kate Plus 8 to morph into Kate Plus 8, reflecting Kate Gosselin’s new life as a single mom… Roman Polanski is arrested in Switzerland…

OCTOBER

Planet Green names Bob Rubin as creative director… BBC coproductions Yellowstone: Winter and Earth are key winners at the Jackson Hole Film Fest… Michael Moore’s Roger and Me celebrates its 20th anniversary… Comcast begins talks with General Electric about acquiring a controlling stake in NBC Universal… Scripps Networks announces the Food Network is going international, with launches planned for EMEA… Lisa Mao is promoted to VP of development at Hoff Productions… AETN International announces that Colin Firth is set to head up the UK version of its The People Speak format… Endemol and Jerry Seinfeld unveil The Marriage Ref at MIPCOM, while FRAPA also unveils its latest format report… Brazilian TV Producers brings 40 producers from 27 companies and 70 delegates to MIPCOM to announce that ‘Brazil is open for business’ and to unveil its PIC DOC conference… Scripps announces that FLN will morph into The Cooking Channel… IMG announces it’s looking into selling Darlow Smithson Productions, Tiger Aspect and Tigress… Banijay acquires Nordisk Film & TV… NATPE announces it will be leaving Las Vegas for Miami in 2011… Fox Cable Networks announces it’s pulling the plug on Fox Reality, which will become Nat Geo Wild in 2010… TLC launches a lawsuit against Jon Gosselin, alleging breach of contract… Richard Heene and Mayumi Iizuka tell authorities in Fort Collins, Colorado that their young son, Falcon, is flying over the town in a runaway balloon. The balloon lands, while the boy is found safe at home and a media frenzy begins…Canwest bows DIY Canada… The NFB unleashes its iPhone app which makes the Film Board’s catalog accessible via mobile… Nat Geo announces it’s undertaking the largest global TV event and multi-platform initiative in its history, Greatest Migrations… DOK Leipzig announces record attendance numbers… Parthenon Entertainment names Richard Sattin as head of factual… Ish Entertainment co-founder Stella Stolper forms Wikked Entertainment with Reveille…

NOVEMBER

Allan Singer, ex-Comcast, joins Oprah Winfrey Network as executive vice president of distribution and strategy… Fox, Reveille and Gordon Ramsay’s One Potato Two Potato announce plans to bring MasterChef format to America… Discovery Communications releases its financial results for the third quarter of 2009, reporting a drop in net income of US$39 million, and an increase in ad revenue for U.S. networks of five percent… Shed Media Scotland appoints Ricochet’s Ed Levan as head of factual… Scripps acquires controlling interest in Travel Channel… Various reports state that merger of Lifetime with AETN will result in 100 layoffs… BBC appoints Andrew Cohen as head of its science unit… C4 announces it’s dropping Wife Swap from sked… ‘Balloon Boy’ justice: Richard Heene pleads guilty to a felony charge of attempting to influence a public servant, while Mayumi Heene pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge of false reporting… Jon Gosselin files countersuit against TLC… ITV Studios announces it’s due to undergo a round of restructuring that will see the creation of four content groups – factual, entertainment, daytime and scripted – and the loss of up to 15 jobs… Scripps Networks Interactive acquires 69% of Indian broadcaster NDTV Group’s lifestyle programming subsidiary, NDTV Lifestyle… CBC’s Battle of the Blades, produced by Insight Productions, skates away with big numbers for the Canuck pubcaster… realscreen announces its inaugural Factual Entertainment Awards, to be held in Santa Monica in June, 2010… Oprah Winfrey Network confirms a January, 2011 launch, while Oprah herself confirms she’s ending her own show in September of 2011… Discovery Communications announces a multi-year multimedia education initiative, ‘Be The Future’… Endemol acquires Darlow Smithson Productions, Tiger Aspect and Tigress… UK-based prodco Rare Day appoints Dan Brooke, former MD of Discovery Networks UK, as MD… Pact survey finds that export sales for UK TV content in 2008 were up 25% from 2007… EyeSteel Films’ Last Train Home gets the nod for best feature doc at IDFA… Reed MIDEM announces launch of MIPFormats in April…

DECEMBER

Comcast and GE reach deal in which Comcast will pay $13.75 billion for a majority stake in NBC Universal… John Ferriter sues WME for unlawful termination among other things… realscreen unveils Realscreen Connect, its new state-of-the-art screening suite, to launch officially at the Realscreen Summit… Sundance Channel and WE tv to be aired in Asia… Outright Distribution announces new fund for UK and U.S. content… Discovery Networks International names Mark Hollinger as president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, replacing Greg Ricca… Endemol’s global head of marketing and brand partnerships, Paul Johnson, is said to be leaving the company after less than a year… Discovery announces that former president of entertainment at Fox Broadcasting Company Peter Liguori will be replacing Mark Hollinger as chief operating officer… National Board of Review names The Cove as best documentary… Sundance Channel to launch in Canada through Corus and Rainbow Media… History greenlights its first reality competition series, Top Shot… OWN and ro*co productions team up for multi-platform ‘Documentary Film Club’ to be focused on docs that ‘inspire and entertain’… Discovery Studios names former Optomen Productions president Beth Hoppe as executive producer of its upcoming major series Curiosity: The Questions of Life, which will air over five years… Gena McCarthy, senior VP of development and production at Discovery Channel, resigns from the cabler… Chris Coelen, CEO of RDF USA, announces his departure from the company after four years… BBC Worldwide and All3Media Deutschland GmbH form joint venture prodco, Tower Productions… Discovery Communications announces major reorg, with company veteran W. Clark Bunting replacing John Ford as president and GM of the flagship channel and Science Channel. Brands ‘targeting similar viewer demographics and content genres’ will be grouped together…In offices around the world, workers recover from holiday parties and prepare for a brief break…roll on, 2010.

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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