Category Archives: Commissioning Briefings
Fazeley Studios played host to the BBC’s Birmingham briefing. The good news is that the Beeb is looking to increase spending into the regions for 2016. It has been mentioned that we are all working in a tough financial climate and budgets are 5 per cent less each year.
BBC Four started the proceedings. Apparently this channel is not about the ratings but about quality, award-winning programmes. They want something spiky, provocative and controversial. The channel should be fairly mainstream and not niche – BBC Four is about purpose, proposition and passion. They want intelligent and witty programmes.
Seasons are a big part of BBC Four. Knowing upcoming seasons is important because most opportunities will lie in seasons, which are mostly generated by channel management team but is now open to ideas from production companies.
BBC Two is about eclectic, mixed genre programming. It wants to be the ‘intellectual engine room of the BBC’. It aims for ambitious factual programming and is passionate about history and what people had to say. They want factual or fact ent formats for news avoiders. The priority time slot is 11-12pm. BBC Two is looking to replace Masterchef. Ideally, they do not want another food programme, but they are open to ideas. Most of all, do not forget talent. A young, male food voice is missing – is there anyone out there like Jamie Oliver or Heston Blumenthal? But on a more general basis, think of talent – again, who is the next Mary Portas?
BBC Three was next and they said that it is important to understand who watches the channel. The average age of the audience is 37 years. BBC Three needs big propositions, not niche ones. For the 8-9pm slot, they are looking for formats that are quirky and cover guilty pleasures for example, Snog Marry, Avoid? and Don’t Get Screwed. They are also looking for formats like Don’t Tell the Bride.
Documentary as a strand was represented by creative director Claire Pizey. She said that it is always useful to have an idea on how the e-comms system works. For the BBC One 10.35pm slot, the team is looking for reputational and popular docs. They would like big hitters and journeys for the 9pm slot.
BBC Two is all about single docs. BBC Four is looking for provocative 3 x 60 docs, which can be stripped across the week. Single docs can have well-known faces or showing other sides of their personalities. BBC Three is open to single docs and new directing talent. Again, do not forget about new talent. Singles could have strong characters and have access to families or anything that tackles body image and rights of passage.
Birmingham’s Austin Court played host Channel 4’s Multiplatform Briefing. The team consisted of Louise Brown (Head of Cross Platform Commissioning), Matt Locke (Commissioning Editor, Education) and Tom Loosemore (Head of 4iP).
Louise Brown said that she would like to extend television programmes and new media to complement this. She would like to increase the impact of Channel 4 content online including games. She thinks that the depth of the impact will rise with ‘digital experiences’. She’s looking at more health and sex ed proposals especially after the success of: Sexperience, Embarrassing Bodies and Hollyoaks: The Morning After The Night Before. Louise is looking to hear from digital companies and production companies.
Matt Locke added that he is interested in teen emotional resilience. He thinks that this is the territory for 2010.
Tom Loosemore spoke about 4iP. He said that Channel 4’s DNA = doing it first + inspiring change and people’s lives + making trouble in the public’s interest. 4iP is about stimulating products and companies and it is about partnerships, which 4iP is very interested about. 4iP is looking for world-changing ideas with a sense of gravity, participation and collaboration.
To read the notes from this event, go to Notes from the Meet the Channel 4 Digital Commissioner briefings.
Day 2 was all about Drama, Entertainment and Comedy. Julian Bellamy and Kevin Lygo once again opened the proceedings and welcomed the attendees. Stuart Cosgrove, who chaired the event, said that Channel 4 cannot grow and develop without innovation.
Bellamy once again mentioned that the channel is looking to increase its spend in drama and that 2010 is going to be a curious year as they get the channel ready post Big Brother. He said that there will be a new set of commissioning priorities emerging from Channel 4 as well as a new set of commissions.
After a quick Q&A with Bellamy and Lygo, Head of Entertainment and Comedy Andrew Newman came up. He wants something edgy, innovative and experimental. He applauded Derren Brown’s: The Events (lottery prediction show), because of how innovative and groundbreaking it was.
He said there is still room for one or two new things for 2010 but limitless for 2011. He would ‘relish’ more studio entertainment shows as well as comedy reality shows plus good authored clip shows like Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Ponderland. He said that it would be good to have a funny regional female talent.
Comedy-wise, commissioning editor Shane Allen spoke very highly of The IT Crowd, Britain’s Got the Pop Factor…, Star Stories, Comedy Lab and Comedy Showcase. He said that comedy is expensive and risky but can be channel-defining. He does not want something that they have already. The team are looking for a new season for the end of February 2010. He suggests that they need more than just a treatment – teaser tapes are a good idea. He wants something that is diverse and can be a series.
For drama, the team are looking for 2-3 drama events. It can be contemporary or historical but it has to be relevant. Looking to do 3 single films a year in which issue is at its heart (e.g. Boy A or The Unloved). They are also looking for a comedy drama series for 10pm and a comedy drama series on E4 for the 16-24s. They do not want to be prescriptive because they do not want to miss out on great ideas. Robert Wulff-Cochrane is the head of drama development.
Andrew Jackson took to the stage and talked about Features. He said that features is aspirational and something that ‘holds a mirror of our lives’. Like the other commissioners, his team are looking for big, new, bold ideas with fresh faces that will ‘shake us up’.
Although he doesn’t want to rule out some things immediately, he’s already saying no to property, body image and fashion. 2010 is pretty full, so we’re looking at 2011 onwards. For the 8pm slot, he wants new talent. If you have access to new talent, get them on tape even if it’s rough. For the 9pm slot, he’s looking for health but not in BBC style. Think Embarrassing Illnesses.
Next up was Andrew Mackenzie to talk about Factual Entertainment. His department has the broadest brief in the channel. 9pm is all about the passions and excitement of modern Britain i.e. how we live. 10pm is about excitement and shifted entertainment. It has to have the same impact as Big Brother, so something like a one-week stripped or three-week event. Need to think of competitive format – not business or food i.e. nothing like The Apprentice or The Restaurant. Think: what is the next territory? Need new approach to these things and need simple irreverent ideas with a factual base. The simplest ideas have the most impact. We can’t replicate Big Brother, but aim for its scale.
Dorothy Byrne followed and spoke about News and Current Affairs. She wants something challenging but not being stupid. She would like: big foreign films – enormously powerful docs with current feel; new way of looking at undercover; big investigation – year-long investigation into a subject that matters; and radical / challenging views – don’t need a fully developed story but it could be about Britain or the world with an interesting author that would shock people. She doesn’t want anything pompous or patronising. She wants to see social network engagement and fun with journalism.
Channel 4 had two briefing days in November and Day 1 was all about Factual. I went to Horseferry Road to check out what the commissioners’ wish lists were. Opening the event was Channel 4′s Nations and Regions Head of Programmes who said that the channel faces a creative and cultural renewal post Big Brother.
Stuart was followed by Kevin Lygo – the channel’s Director of Television. He said that TV is going through an interesting time… a ‘very grim time’. He mentioned that C4 has less money to spend that what they had a few years ago, but still have millions to spend on new programming. There is approximately £50m available to make new shows.
Head of Programmes Julian Bellamy echoed what Lygo said and added that factual is ‘up for grabs’. C4 also wants to spend more money on drama, factual entertainment and live events. They want big, groundbreaking shows that are unusual, experimental and creative to fill that hole post BB.
Bellamy said that around December, commissioning priorities will emerge. He said that C4 is short of one or two campaigning seasons, specialist factual and news / current affairs programmes. Lygo added that without BB, people miss live events, entertainment and watercooler moment shows.
So, first up to share his wish list is Head of Documentaries, Hamish Mykura.
- fresh formatted docs
- bigger events
- docu-dramas are still in the equation
- presenter-led ideas a la Louis Thoreaux – there’s a shortage of this
- observational docs with a point of view – what makes them belong to C4?
Who’s who in C4 Documentaries?
Commissioning editor, Mark Raphael has taken over Cutting Edge. Cutting Edge is all about reflecting contemporary Britain andreflecting the voices of the directors. Aysha Rafaele looks after First Cut (30 mins on any subject). More 4′s International Doc Strand contains 40 films a year on any subject matter with unashamed sense.
Docs have not been hit by the recession and so cash shortage is not a problem in this department. As of the 21st of November, slots for this strand is still available for 2010 and that there is a ‘terrifying blank sheet for 2011′.
Ralph Lee – Specialist Factual
Specialist factual is an ‘ideas hungry department’. Lee highlights three filters that are integral to this strand: intelligence (like to show strong voices), impact (motivating people to watch amidst background of wide range of choices to watch) and entertainment (really important to C4).
He said that it is not easy to commission single documentaries, so essentially, he’s not looking for single docs specifically. Topics-wise, the areas of interests are psychology, science, history, anthropology and arts. He doesn’t want to do anything niche and presenter-led formats are not a priority for specialist factual. Arts is very much on the agenda. REligion has been absorbed into specialist factual as well.