Sheffield ’18: What fact ent commissioners want

SHEFFIELD – Innovation, humour and risk are among the buzz words factual entertainment commissioners used to describe the content they’re seeking during a discussion held at the Sheffield Doc/Fest Tuesday ...
June 13, 2018

SHEFFIELD – Innovation, humour and risk are among the buzz words factual entertainment commissioners used to describe the content they’re seeking during a discussion held at the Sheffield Doc/Fest Tuesday (June 12).

In the fact ent commissioning session, David Brindley, head of popular factual, BBC; Kate Teckman, factual entertainment commissioning editor, ITV; Adrian Padmore, commissioning editor, Channel 5; and Kelly Webb-Lamb, deputy director of programs and head of popular factual, Channel 4 (pictured); joined moderator Neil Smith, managing director of Boundless for a discussion about their respective nets.

Channel 5 commish Padmore kicked off the session by saying his net wants shows that are positive, warm or with a purpose, highlighting such programs as Yorkshire Vets and Rich House, Poor House. He added that Channel 5 is looking for stories that are mainstream and can appeal to the whole country.

Over at Channel 4, Webb-Lamb said she is looking for projects boasting a point of view with a twist, humor and heart-warming stories. She is also looking for current and timely topics that don’t shy away from conflict, such as All 4′s Genderquake. Although the series about gender and sexuality wasn’t a massive ratings hit, she thought its stories were topical and important to broadcast.

At commercial network ITV, Teckman said she is proud of the risks the net has taken with titles such as The Real Full Monty: Ladies Night. She is also looking for 9 p.m. returnables that create an emotional impact. Furthermore, Teckman said she’s looking for programs that are “big and innovative,” but that appeal to the mainstream and can be scaled.

“I don’t want bland,” Teckman emphasized.

The BBC’s Brindley said the pubcaster is keen on “think pieces done in an entertaining way” such as Britain’s<
Fat Fight.
There is also room for constructed formats in the factual entertainment space, noting BBC2′s culinary series Million Pound Menu.

Smith asked Brindley if the BBC is reeling from the loss of the Love Productions produced The Great British Bake Off  to rival pubcaster Channel 4.

Brindley said that from his perspective, the move of the baking competition series to Channel 4 gives him the opportunity to find new shows. Noting that it’s unrealistic to commission another Bake Off, it’s critical for the BBC to commit to titles it believes in.

Since the pubcaster already has a slew of culinary programming, Brindley said it is looking for content that fits the “pop doc” space for primetime across BBC1 and BBC2 that they can grow into returnables.

Teckman added that ITV is also looking for constructed documentaries and formats with heart.

Webb-Lamb said she has a “huge appetite” for risky shows such as the survivalist series The Island and the forthcoming social media-focused The Circle from Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group.

The pubcaster often gets pitched two-to-three part series but Webb-Lamb is looking for “bigger, channel defining shows,” adding that she is interested in trying more live programming.

Webb-Lamb also suggested that the old forms of measurement, such as overnights, don’t always give broadcasters a whole picture of the success of their programs, and it’s something she questions if they move should away from.

Brindley agreed with the C4 commissioner, saying program success is not all about overnights, but talent, originality and knowing that every show they commission is not going always have an audience of millions.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.