Even after History’s recent success with scripted specials The Bible and Hatfields & McCoys, the network is still dedicated to looking for non-fiction repeatable series, as revealed in MIPDoc’s “fireside” chat with History and National Geographic.
According to History’s VP of development, Matt Ginsburg, “Non-fiction series are key for us,” particularly programs that appeal to the instincts of men, or those which feature environments that create vicarious experiences for the audience.
Citing Counting Cars from Leftfield and Mountain Men from Warm Springs Productions as two hits that launched last year, Ginsburg stated that he’s looking for more series with authenticity at their core.
He says the net is also on the lookout for tent pole docs, like Stephen David Entertainment’s The Men Who Built America, and while he adds that it has no archival projects currently in development, Ginsburg says there’s a place for them either on History or sister network H2.
Formerly History International, H2 houses more documentary-style content as the main channel has delved more into reality-style programming,
“[We have] two places to play,” said Ginsburg. “If we don’t think it can pull one million [viewers] 25-54, it has a place on H2.”
Maggie Rhodes, National Geographic Channel’s director of global acquisitions, meanwhile, revealed that its global channels are looking for blue chip programming and formats, as well as entertainment series that are engaging, but also respectful to the National Geographic brand.
“It’s at the forefront when commissioning or buying content, that we have to be respectful to that yellow border,” said Rhodes.
The genres that are synonymous with the National Geographic magazine, anthropology and wildlife, are still part of the network’s remit but are now being re-interpreted in different ways, with anthropology focusing on subcultures such as the Amish, Hutterites and Doomsday Preppers, and wildlife content ranging from traditional blue chip to docuseries including The Incredible Dr. Pol and Fishtank Kings.
For a truly international series, she mentions King Fisher, a reality competition series that was inspired by ITV Studios’ Come Dine With Me (ITV Studios’ Shiver produces the NGC fishing show).
The series came out of the National Geographic Channels International office, which produces about 30% of the content that goes around the globe, while 70% comes out of the U.S. offices, headed up by David Lyle and Howard T. Owens.
She states that they’re still in the market for specials, with a remit of 80% series and 20% reserved for big splashy specials, anniversary tie-ins, or pilots that can be taken to series.
On the subject of anniversaries, Rhodes says it’s not too late for content marking the 100 year anniversary of World War I in 2014, and she’s also looking for archive-based projects, in line with Apocalypse Hitler, which can be colorized, and also integrate HD, CGI and recreation, as long as they don’t look like the more traditional archival docs of the past.