Upfront: For the Record and other news briefs

Sportel, American-style...
March 1, 1998

Sportel, American-style

The young offshoot of Monaco’s Sportel market turns three this month. Sportel America in Miami takes place from March 16-18, with 54 companies displaying and almost 700 participants confirmed.

Sports programming is big business, with nichecasters securing increasing market share. New York-based espn’s audience has grown 20% in the last two years, reaching the 55-million-household mark. Their one-year-old Latin American network is now seen in over ten million homes.

William Vitale, chairman of New Jersey sports programming distributor, Vital Communications, says the business has grown so much that a second market became imperative. Sportel America offers an opportunity to do some real business, he explains, with no room for ‘hangers-on.’

Keg goes to Ellis

Toronto’s Ellis Enterprises and Baton Broadcasting have reorganized their holdings in Canada’s Outdoor Life Network and Keg Productions, separating broadcast and production interests. Baton has acquired the Ellis stake in oln, while Ellis has acquired Baton’s interest in Keg. The wildlife producer now becomes fully independent and wholly owned by Ellis.

WDR restructures

Following a merger which saw Cologne-based WDR International’s global tv and video sales department integrated with similar departments at Bavaria, Studio Hamburg and ndr, forming German United Distributors (gud), the broadcaster has restructured its coproduction and tv purchasing department. Commissions, coproductions and purchasing will now report to Friedrich Reusch, head of WDR Television’s general-affairs department.

Horst Schering, former head of WDR International, has since left to become an independent film- and tv-rights trader with offices in Paris and Cologne.

DISCOP’s doc opps

This year’s discop in Budapest (June 25-27) presents a unique opportunity for doc producers. One day of the Central/ Eastern European television market will be set aside for meetings with documentary acquisition executives from Central European TV stations looking to hammer out coproduction deals, as well as doc producers looking for additional funding partners. The session will be limited to 30 stations and 15 producers, with viewing booths and translators available.

Lonely Planet

finds new friends

Bristol’s World Television is taking over the management of the world-famous Lonely Planet back catalogue for all territories except the u.k. The travel series, produced and previously controlled by London’s Pilot Productions, carries the most recognizable brand name in the genre.

The acquisition is a departure from the traditional conservation-oriented footage the company carries. Notable names in the World Television vaults include Amnesty International, the World Wildlife Federation and Greenpeace.

Landscapes to stimulate

Now in its 10th year, U.K.-based The Landscape Channel is putting a new, perhaps more carnal, spin on its normal repertoire. Starting this month, the digital service is launching Real Life Landscape, a late-night spot celebrating ‘the beauty of the human body’ in addition to the usual flowers, vistas and landscapes.

Chairman Nick Austin says the service’s new live digital feed allows for ‘time-sensitive programming, which may not be appropriate in daytime slots.’ Read: nudity.

Says Austin: ‘As a basic-tier channel, we believe we have identified a new form of landscape which audiences everywhere will relate to.’ No doubt.

THC hits ratings peak with Klan

February’s broadcast of Termite Art’s The Ku Klux Klan: A Secret History marked a ratings high for The History Channel’s u.s. service with an average 2.1% gaa – approximately one-million households. That’s the highest rating recorded for the three-year-old network.

Executive vp and general manager Dan Davids attributes the numbers entirely to the program’s theme and quality, saying the show had no more than the usual on-station promotion. The Klan hung on to its audience for the entire two-hour period, indicating subject matter strong enough to capture and hold viewers.

‘It’s never an easy task to attract more viewers,’ explains Davids. The network has been hitting the mark, however, currently reaching almost 46 million subscribers. Davids says people have told him thc provides ‘a real emotional connection and a relational understanding of the past.’

The latest u.s. census shows the 45-64 demographic to be expanding – which is good news for thc. ‘We find when people hit about 36 years old, they start to become a little more interested in the past.’ Its historical mandate also means the end of the 20th century will be a boon: ‘We’re the official tv channel of the millennium.’

Docs in the Classroom: Forum to open MIPDOC

Kicking off the mipdoc conferences on April 1st will be a Reed Midem/International Association of Educational and Discovery Televisions (aited) panel on the re-use of docs for educational purposes. Discussions will focus on repurposing docs for the classroom as well as the emergence of multimedia documentary as a teaching tool.

The forum will be monitored by Pat Ferns, president and ceo of the Banff Television Festival. Panelists include Jacques Bensimon, aited vp and managing director of Canada’s TFO/TVOntario, as well as Jacques Laurent and Patrick De Carolis, the heads of documentary from arte, and France 3, respectively. Also confirmed are pbs, bbc and Brazil’s Telecultura. Representatives from Futura, the new Brazilian educational network, and Australia’s new Leading Channel are expected.

Bensimon says the timing for mipdoc is perfect, as the selling environment is turning from a ‘mom and pop approach, to an industrial one.’ The big question for the tfo vp is whether it will be strictly business (ˆ la natpe), or if content will play a role, as it is all-important. ‘You cannot keep the creators – the filmmakers – out of the process,’ he explains, ‘because that is where the renewal of documentary comes from


Michael Cascio, formerly vp of documentary programming, has been appointed senior vp of programming at A&E Networks. Cascio joined the network in 1990 as director of documentary productions, and has won Emmy and Cable Ace awards for work on Biography and Investigative Reports.

Toronto-based CineNova Productions has named Tom Perlmutter, former head of documentary programming at Toronto’s Barna-Alper Productions, head of development. Perlmutter created and produced the 13-part anthology Turning Points of History as well as The Sexual Century, a six-part series set to launch in Canada, England and France in 1999. CineNova has also hired Christina Pochmursky as senior producer.

Also see:

-ITV censured on serious doc output: ITC labelled ‘reluctant policeman’

-Unapix sends more medicine overseas

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