Television Business International

MARS

Show of the week: Mars

Mars will be one of the biggest new series in Cannes this year. Its production credits alone will attract buyers: Ron Howard, Michael Rosenberg and Brian Grazer from Imagine Entertainment, and Justin Wilkes and Dave O’Connor from RadicalMedia are among those helming the scripted-unscripted hybrid about how humanity could reach the Red Planet.

Visionary Mexican director Everardo Gout (Days of Grace) was tapped to direct the scripted sections, which shot in Morocco and Budapest earlier this year, while Howard and Grazer are perhaps best known for their 1995 space epic Apollo 13, meaning they have experience in this type of content.

In front of the camera Ben Cotton plays an American mission commander leading NASA’s first manned journey to Mars, while Jihae Kim plays a Korean-American pilot as part of a multi-cultural cast also including Spanish, French, Nigerian and Russia talent.

Prentiss Fraser, senior VP of global entertainment sales at distributor Fox Networks Group Content Sales says the original concept was “a big and epic series for our channels”, adding: “It’s got a high budget and big talent attached both in front of and behind the camera.”

The series goes out on Nat Geo in 171 territories next year, with FNGCS focusing on free TV and second-window pay TV sales at MIPCOM, where it will have a worldwide episode premiere and an associated cocktail event.

Fraser says it is visually “gorgeous”, noting it is shot in 4K and has “feature film effects” combined with documentary footage.

The series’ unscripted sections include interviews and testimony about the likelihood of humans reaching Mars from major scientific figures including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson – “huge names and huge minds”, as Fraser puts it.

FNGCS plans to take the title around the world territory by territory. “The industry has been waiting for content like this – our buyers have been telling us so,” says Fraser.

The series is one of NGC’s biggest programmes, both in terms of scope, vision and budget. Therefore, it would likely play well on major commercial channels or large pubcasters with dedicated factual slots.

NGC CEO Courteney Monroe will host a Q&A with series talent after the MIPCOM screening, with hundreds of buyers expected to attend.

The show: Mars
The producer: Imagine Entertainment, Radical Media
The distributor: Fox Networks Group Content Sales
The broadcaster: National Geographic Channel
The concept: Docu-drama looking at humans’ attempts to reach and colonise the Red Planet, Mars