Netherlands and U.K.-based factual specialist Off the Fence has opened its first Canadian office in Toronto.
Led by Imelda Wiebers, director of Commercial and Business Affairs (pictured above), the producer-distributor told Playback Daily the plan is to seize the quickest opportunities under a recently unveiled content strategy focusing on three areas: history, science and tech, and relationships between people and the planet including natural history, travel and adventure, lifestyle, crime and impact.
“We are looking to invest further into our content pillars … specifically across science and ancient history, as well as offer Canadian wildlife co-production opportunities,” says Weibers.
The Toronto operation – incorporated on May 7 – is planning to hire Canadian employees shortly.
Wiebers brings over a decade of experience in the factual business, with emphasis on closing a wide variety of agreements related to the international TV production and distribution business, and commercial negotiations. Previously, she was head of distribution and has served as the company’s legal and business affairs manager. As part of her current role, Wiebers will assess the legal and commercial return on intellectual property opportunities.
In July, Off the Fence CEO Bo Stehmeier unveiled three business models in a press briefing, with a key element of the strategy to bolster IP investment, focus on the development and production of the content the company has built its reputation on over its decades-long history, while exploring more avenues for hybrid content that is increasingly relevant in the streaming era.
The studios division will bring in third-party producers, as well as work with Off the Fence’s own production company to produce content, while also investing heavily in rights. And a third prong of the new strategy will reflect the digital evolution of the content business, utilizing data to tailor content solutions that will serve not only traditional media but the algorithm-driven ecosystem of AVOD, SVOD and emerging FAST channel platforms.
“We are excited to have opened our first office in Canada and to be bringing our solid industry experience, unparalleled access to people and places, and fresh ideas to the Canadian market,” said Stehmeier in a statement. “We look forward to working even more closely with our Canadian partners to create and distribute compelling content.”
Added Wiebers: “The new Canadian office is yet another step to take the company to the next level and I’m thrilled to be part of that expansion.”
Off the Fence has created more than 500 hours of content for a range of international broadcasters including CBC/Radio-Canada, Blue Ant Media, Bell Media and Knowledge Network.
Canadian production companies which have worked with Off the Fence include Infield Fly Productions, Markham Street Films, Parallax Film Productions, Go Button Media, Rotating Planet and more. Most recently, it acquired Last of the Right Whales, directed by Nadine Pequeneza, and produced by HitPlay Productions, which explores the fight to save the North Atlantic right whale. It will be released in theatres this fall, and CBC plans to air the documentary in 2022.
Off the Fence – which is owned by ZDF Enterprises – won an Oscar and a BAFTA for its Netflix original feature documentary My Octopus Teacher, co-produced with the Sea Change Project and Netflix Originals.
From Playback’s Liza Sardi With files from Realscreen