Five’s wildlife needs

Wildlife producers hoping to work with Five in the UK need to know that the broadcaster is - now more than ever - moving in an entertainment channel direction. So forget pitching conservation-themed shows - Five would rather air exploding snakes. Learn the specifics on what the channel wants from factual CE Bethan Corney.
October 30, 2008

Bethan Corney, a commissioning editor for factual programming at Five, got in depth about the British commercial channel and its wildlife needs at last week’s Wildscreen event in Bristol.

As a commercial venture that’s mostly funded by advertising revenue, Corney says Five is going for a broad audience, so it does populist programming. ‘We want as many men as possible,’ says Corney, adding that the 16-to-34 demo in particular is ‘the one the advertisers will pay the most money for.’

Wildlife has a place in the channel’s primetime schedule, with strands at 6:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Getting specific about hits in these slots, Corney says The Man Who Lives with Bears has been the highest-rating doc in the 9 p.m. slot for 2009.

She lists a string of adjectives – entertaining, extreme, strange, shocking, true and adventurous – when describing Five’s brand values for wildlife programming. ‘We are moving in an entertainment channel direction,’ she says. If your show waves the conservation flag, don’t bother pitching Five. Corney stresses the channel isn’t interested in conservation themes. ‘We’re just not the BBC – we need to offer an alternative,’ she says.

There are a few specific types of wildlife programming Five wants, and one kind is the type that will work for its ‘Nature Shock’ strand, which is devoted to – you guessed it – shocking tales from the natural world. ‘We are tabloidy, and we’re not ashamed of it,’ says Corney. In case you’re wondering what may constitute a shocking wildlife tale, Corney gives a recent example from Five’s schedule: The Exploding Snake. (Somewhere Sir David Attenborough just shuddered involuntarily.)

Five is also on the lookout for ‘animal people’ tales, such as the aforementioned The Man Who Lives with Bears. Presenter adventures is also on its wish list for shows from indie producers, especially ones that are ‘immersive, surprising and authentic’ says Corney. She adds that Five is very open to new talent, especially female presenters.

Five is also keen to get more celebrity specials on the air. ‘We would dearly love any A-listers that would fit the channel,’ says Corney.

In terms of budgets, Corney says Five has about £80,000 for the 8 p.m. slot and £90,000 to £150,000 for the 9 p.m. slot. Also, Five is interested in coproductions, and can get pots of up to £260,000 per hour if it puts together a coproduction deal.

Last thing to know when pitching Five wildlife: a one paragraph pitch will do to start, and that will be followed by a treatment request if the channel likes your idea.

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