Discovery Networks Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (CEEMEA) has commissioned its first pan-regional reality crime show, shot in Russia, Poland and Romania, as part of parent company Discovery Communications’ billion-dollar global programming strategy, which includes efforts to grow and localize programming in the Central and Eastern European, Middle Eastern and African regions.
Viewers in Eastern Europe will get a glimpse into the little-seen world of local police this April when Discovery Channels in the region begin airing Ultimate Cops (pictured above), a pan-regional reality crime series that follows elite police tactical units in the capital cities of three key markets for the cable network as they tackle everything from terrorism investigations to traffic support.
The fast-paced show inter-cuts between stories unfolding on the streets and in police backrooms in Moscow, Warsaw and Bucharest, with each episode based around a specific theme.
“It’s our first commission for CEEMEA so we have high hopes, and I think the model is one that really will work for us,” Paul Welling, senior VP and head of channels for Discovery Networks CEEMEA, told realscreen. “I’m confident that moving forward we’ll adopt a similar strategy across the CEEMEA territory.”
The pan-regional concept for Ultimate Cops is partially a response to audience research that found Discovery Networks viewers in that region prefer programming with an international focus but, at the same time, allows the network to maintain a distinctly Eastern European feel.
“This is the first for us so we’ll stand back, look at this show, see how it goes and take it from there,” said Welling. “I’d love to see another commission for the first half of the year.
“This is us planting the flag and saying we are going to make our Russian channel more Russian. We are going to make our Polish channel feel more Polish,” he added. “We’re spending a billion dollars on programming this year so it’s a big investment and I would expect our viewers to start building a stronger connection with the brand.”
While the Discovery name helped open doors, producers for Atom Productions International – the UK-based company that headed up production through Discovery Networks CEEMEA’s local operations – spent six to seven months gaining the trust of police and interior ministry officials in the respective countries before production could begin.
“From a production point of view I don’t think we would’ve been able to do this [show] five years ago,” explained Allen Schied, executive producer at Atom. “It was fascinating for me because I covered [the region] as a journalist for many years and now I’m going back and seeing a completely different world over there. There’s a lot of openness and transparency and there’s a lot of welcoming.”
Ultimately, government officials were accommodating in allowing cameras to tag along with police officers, the producer said.
“I’ve been in the business long enough to know when someone is subtly censoring us,” he added. “I went to Cuba years ago and I hand a minder the whole time – everywhere I went someone was following me. I didn’t have that. They wanted to make sure that we were well taken care of.”
Ultimate Cops begins airing on Discovery Networks CEEMEA in South and Eastern Europe on April 13 and in the Middle East and Africa and Central and Eastern Europe on April 23. It will air in North East Europe (Russia, Ukraine) from April, with an exact TX date yet to be set.
The series was exec produced by Victoria Noble for Discovery Networks CEEMEA and shot by the crew behind Discovery Channel series Bear Grylls: Ultimate Survival, including series producer Charlie Smith and cameraman Simon Reay.
Watch a clip from Ultimate Cops below: