Ed TV Festival: Discovery+ shares content wishlist & UK minister defends C4 privatisation

Lisa Holme

Discovery told producers to “keep calm and carry on” following the WarnerMedia merger, while Channel 4 privatisation came up for further debate on the final day of the Edinburgh TV Festival.

Fielding questions about the Discovery and WarnerMedia merger during a panel session yesterday, Discovery+ group SVP of content and commercial strategy, Lisa Holme, reassured producers that it is “business as usual” until regulatory approval comes through.

“Keep working with us as you have been,” said the exec. “Once all of that happens, I think there will be lots of new exciting prospects about how we think about leveraging talent or IP across an even broader ecosystem but that’s a long way [away],” revealed Holme, adding: “For now, it’s keep calm and carry on.”

Holme also shared insight into the type of content that Discovery+ is looking for, including reality shows along the same lines as Netflix series Bling Empire.

“I think one of the things that you’ll see us dabble in, particularly in Discovery+ is a more heavily produced invention, more formatted show in the reality space. Naked and Afraid Of Love is an example. That’s an exciting area of expansion for us that we haven’t done as much of within the networks. What’s our Bling Empire,” said Holme.

The factual streamer is also on the lookout for shorter series and serialised content, with a focus on true crime, dating, paranormal and social experiment programming. Holme added that Discovery+ is not particularly interested in political, news-based, music or dance shows – or for scripted shows.

“As broad as the aperture is for bringing us your best ideas of all shapes and sizes, we are pretty unlikely to be the home for a scripted project. There will be these one-offs where we experiment,” said Holme.

House Of Hammer

Investing in true crime

Holme’s panel appearance came on the same day that Discovery+ announced it had inked a multi-year, multi-project deal with Talos Films, for the US-based firm to produce true crime content for the streamer.

The deal follows their partnership on docuseries Queen Of Meth earlier this year, while the next two collaborations are both limited series, including will be an inside look at the scandalous Hammer family and an exposé of the troubled teen industry.

House Of Hammer (working title) illuminates how, in one family, generations of men practiced and inherited unlawful and abusive tactics both in their personal and professional lives. Actor Armie Hammer made headlines earlier this year when he was accused of horrible abuse of multiple women – but, as the series will reveal, those are just the most recent alleged crimes perpetrated by the Hammer men.

Meanwhile, Tough Love Inc. reveals through inside accounts from survivors, whistleblowers, and activists about an organized system of child abuse that takes place in America’s ‘Troubled Teen’ Industry. Ranging from wilderness programs and addiction centers to ‘conversion’ camps to lockdown facilities, this industry is accused of employing mind-control tactics of deprivation, coercion and brute force which have proved deadly for the minors in their care.

“We’re excited to expand our successful partnership with the incredible storytellers at Talos Films on several new projects,” said Jason Sarlanis, president, crime and investigative content, linear and streaming.  “These series are contemporary and urgent, with cases unfolding in real time.”

John Whittingdale

Keeping C4 competitive

Following Channel 4 CCO Ian Katz’s vocal opposition to privatisation plans for the government-owned UK commercial broadcaster earlier in the week, UK media minister John Whittingdale spoke yesterday in defence of idea, which he said would help Channel 4 to continue to thrive in an increasingly streamer-dominated industry.

“We want to preserve Channel 4 going forward and we do think this model is going to be very difficult to sustain because of the power and amount of choice available from the streamers,” said Whittingdale.

Addressing concerns that selling the channel would change its creative output, he added: “We are going to make it clear if there is a change in ownership the remit is there and that will stay and if they aren’t willing to do that, we imagine they won’t express an interest in the channel.”

Playwright James Graham (Brexit: An Uncivil War), however, countered that privatising the comcaster would diminish its “idiosyncratic” output.

“I despair a bit on the idea we have to raise the white flag on public service broadcasting because of the arrival of these majority-American online streamers and that seems to be the dominant landscape for sharing news and entertainment in the future,” said Graham.

“I agree we possibly have to reform some of these models but that doesn’t mean giving up entirely on the public service remit and the social political good that that does.”

Graham added that while he ‘adores’ streamers such as Netflix and Apple, and praised the quality of writing on the platforms, that: “The problem is, and I know this from personal experience in meetings about creating ideas for content, that because it has a global perspective, it needs a British drama to appeal to people in Germany and China and particularly America.

“That is going to have an impact on the idiosyncratic British worlds which Channel 4 in particular really enjoys finding and doesn’t massively care if a viewer in Idaho is going to watch it or not.”

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