Christine Shipton, SVP, drama and factual content for Canwest Broadcasting oversees factual content on a range of Canwest’s channels, including specialties History Television Canada and Mystery Channel and national network Global Television. Here, she takes realscreen through what works for those brands in factual.
History Television Canada: We’re always looking for ways to make history relevant to today’s audience and that means broadening the relevance to a younger audience and a female audience. History Television has been traditionally seen as a very male dominated audience and we’ve managed to even out the demographic this past year to 50-50 men and women. We have a lot of contemporary and yet historically relevant programming on History Television Canada and we’ve had some great successes this past year, [with] [Omni Film's] Ice Pilots NWT, [ YAP Films'] Ancients Behaving Badly (even the title suggests a little irreverence and a tone that’s something a little different for us) and [Breakthrough Films & Television's] Greatest Tank Battles, which is a very traditional History Television subject [but] a hugely entertaining portrayal of the story.
Mystery Channel: Programming that has investigation at its core works very well on Mystery. Mystery is a really fun channel to commission for; it has a lot factual programming. We have a wonderful series on Mystery coming to us, called The Will, about the interpretation of people’s wills and how that affects relatives. It fits for us because it has an investigative nature to it.
Global: Global is quite specific; we need shorter-run factual series that are episodic. When a series is too serialized or has too many episodes, we can’t always find that time slot. Our series Cold Blood [produced by Cineflix Productions] and our social documentary series ‘Global Current’ are all episodic but have a brand to them. We’re very open to pitches about what a brand could be for a limited series.
We still look for the big events for Global, in the same way that Deal or No Deal Canada or [Are you Smarter than a] Fifth Grader fell under factual, as far as we’re concerned. They are few and far between in terms of a format idea that speaks to the whole country, that rallies Canada [and says], ‘Here’s something fun, Canada, and it’s reflecting you.’