A Proper five years

'TV that's not shit,' says Proper Television's Guy O'Sullivan, trying to explain his approach to programming. 'I was thinking about having that on the masthead.'
January 1, 2010

Before coming to Canada, Guy O’Sullivan spent five years directing programs for the BBC and then was a producer/director for Mentorn working on successful international formats such as Britain’s Worst Driver and Take My Mother in Law.

Since setting up Proper Television in Toronto in January 2005, the prodco has been responsible for over 110 hours of factual and documentary television. Proper has been at the helm of hit series such as Canada’s Worst Driver and Canada’s Worst Handyman for Discovery Channel Canada. Driver‘s season five finale drew over one million viewers making it the first Canadian non-sports specialty program to do so and Discovery just announced the commission of a sixth season, while Handyman will see a fifth season this spring. Lifestyle program Newlywed, Nearly Dead is currently in its fourth season on SLICE and has been sold across 14 other territories, while the company’s first HD feature documentary, The Real Superhumans and the Quest for the Future Fantastic, won Best Canadian Program at the Banff World Television Awards in 2008.

Over the company’s five years in business O’Sullivan says they’ve been fortunate not to see much downtime. In the coming years he says he is striving for a balanced portfolio, including the right distribution deals and good relationships with broadcasters, so that if the company’s busy streak ever dies down they’ll be able to weather the storm.

This includes trying to drive the format business in Canada. O’Sullivan feels the global TV industry doesn’t currently look to Canada when it comes to formats and he’s hoping his company can have a hand in changing that mindset.

‘When I set up the company, as far as I can remember the only [formatted] show on the air [in Canada] was Idol, then we did Driver. Even explaining what formats were was a process,’ he remembers. ‘[The reaction was] ‘You wanna do what?’ We were in this weird little bubble.’ One of O’Sullivan’s great ambitions is to sell formats into the UK and Europe, to send some of the business back into the areas that formats have typically been coming from. He’s well on his way, having just sold the format rights for Junk Raiders to Spain while Proper’s looking to use its output deal with ITV Worldwide to up its international sales.

In 2010 Proper already has a lot on its plate, having just delivered pilots to Canada’s Food Network and SLICE and with an eye set on beefing up the senior management team in the months to come. The company’s main strategy, according to O’Sullivan, is to solidify relationships with all the specialty channels in Canada so that his company will be top of mind. ‘TV that’s not shit,’ says O’Sullivan, trying to explain his approach to programming. ‘I was thinking about having that on the masthead.’

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.