When UK-based North One Television started out as a sport producer in the 1990s the company approached the genre as if it was general entertainment programming. Today, as a successful documentary and fact ent producer with bases in Birmingham, London and Sydney Australia, the genres have broadened but the approach is still the same. As head of North One commercial and digital content John Nolan (pictured) says, it all started with a ‘bunch of guys who liked the same stuff’ and that feeling still remains.
The prodco still works on sport and live event programming, but whereas that was nearly 100% of the focus in the early days, today about 70% of North One’s work is non-sport. ‘We make stuff we love,’ says Nolan, who points to programs as diverse as the Dannii Minogue hosted program Ultimate Movie Toons for ITV, the long-running motoring magazine program Fifth Gear, and a serious documentary on female genital plastic surgery called The Perfect Vagina. ‘They’re [all] made by people who care about the subject matter and I think that’s defined our brand.’ Still, North One – staffed with roughly 100 full-timers – does closely monitor what broadcasters are looking for.
Looking to the future of North One, Nolan says the key challenge will be finding ways to take its programs to new platforms. The prodco currently has a small team managing Facebook and Twitter feeds for its key programs, and the feedback received from the public through these forums is quickly becoming one way to inform the direction taken with programs. North One partnered early on with YouTube and currently makes original content that streams across eight different YouTube channels. ‘Traditionally we’ve always made programs that sit on a linear channel,’ says Nolan. ‘Now you have to make programs that sit on a linear channel but let people pick that program up and play with it. I think that’s one of our big challenges.
‘If you’d have asked me [what the key challenge was] five years ago it would have been how do we integrate with brands on air,’ Nolan continues. ‘The reason we’ve put commercial and digital together is for that reason, because the way in which brands will look to communicate with people is in the digital environment. There might be some strategy there, but calling it strategy makes it sound more clever than it is.’