People/Biz

General Purpose eyes digital switch, int’l opportunities

The Toronto-based unscripted firm has produced a series for Bravo's U.S. digital offshoot Unleashed as it looks to diversify its portfolio in a consolidating environment.
February 17, 2017

The shifting landscape of Canadian content is being felt profoundly by unscripted producers, says General Purpose Entertainment president Scott Clark McNeil, and it’s forcing companies to seek alternative revenue streams, forge new business relationships and look beyond national borders more so than ever.

As such, General Purpose, historically a producer of longer-form linear content such as Holmes on Homes (HGTV) and Post My Party (Makeful), is transitioning into the digital business with the U.S.’s Bravo Media.

The Toronto-based unscripted firm has produced a digi-short series, Furry, Fierce, and Fabulous (5 x 3 minutes; pictured), for Bravo that lives on the U.S. nets website Bravotv.com. The series, which follows dog stylist Roberto Negrin, launched earlier this week via Bravo’s pet-based vertical Unleashed.

McNeil and development VP Anna Wasylenki pitched Bravo the idea at Realscreen West ’16 conference last June and a greenlight soon followed. The episodes, which are fully funded by Bravo (to the tune of about US$1,500 per minute), were shot in Philadelphia in November.

Digital content is something the McNeil’s company wants to do more of, he said, as General Purpose looks to diversify its portfolio and collaborate with new partners.

“I wouldn’t call [digital] a primary revenue generating stream yet, but with time, building these types of relationships is integral to our growing business,” he told Playback Daily, sister publication to realscreen.

Since the Corus-Shaw Media deal further narrowed the landscape for Canadian producers, looking to the U.S. and beyond is the direction in which General Purpose is headed, said McNeil. Short-form digital can serve as an entry point for the company into both the digital and linear markets in the U.S., he added, especially while the Canadian industry is in a phase of such rapid change.

“Given the flux that the TV/content industry is in right now, it’s my strategy to look south of the border, for now, until we sort things out with our pick-and-pay and our Canadian content and all of our regulations, to see where the dust settles here,” he said. “It seems like the Americans are a lot more open for business right now.”

McNeil added that the company has a number of development deals with both U.S. and Canadian players, though he did not disclose the identities of the broadcasters involved.

Aside from the U.S., McNeil said General Purpose is eyeing Europe as a potential frontier for expanding the remit of its business partnerships. With the U.K., Germany and Australia buying up more unscripted content than ever before, he said, its makes sense to partner with them on both on sales initiatives and coproduction partnerships.

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About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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