Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Cord-cutting: Data or Tea Leaves? / ‘Pawn Stars’ Dominates / ESPN: ‘More Docs, please!’ / $10K Development Prize

What Can We Learn From Cord-cutting Studies?

Cord-cutting data are dissected like sacrificial offerings by the high priests of our industry:

  • This week, a study by The Diffusion Group found that heavy Netflix streamers are beginning to recognize that they are watching less pay-TV
  • As a result, they are more disposed to cutting pay-TV

What’s going on?

Two great faiths are struggling for our hearts and wallets

  • Gold Standard-ites argue that consumers will continue to pay $120 +/- a month for a High Mass of services that includes hundreds of channels that they never or rarely watch
  • Good Enough-ers are low-church types who get enough of what they want from services like Netflix – and are happy to save about $80 a month!

Read our earlier discussion Cord-cutting: How Serious? What Does it Mean for Channels and Producers?

Today’s Takeaways

  • A useful multi-channel benchmark is that programming consumes about 40% of a network’s revenues
    • That’s more than U.S. $20 billion this year, according to analysts SNL Kagan
    • A lot of this expense feeds networks that good-enoughers don’t watch, and, according to The Diffusion Group, are vaguely thinking of eliminating
  • At some point, lots of good-enoughers will really say ‘Enough!’
    • They will cut the cord, eroding industry-wide revenue growth, and undermine investments in new productions

The silver lining:

  • Many networks are substituting Reality and other Factual genres for more costly Scripted and other entertainments
  • That means a healthy appetite for Unscripted pitches, and for the best ideas: commissions

The twists and turns of the cord-cutting battle hold valuable lessons for pay TV industry participants worldwide

  • We highly recommended Will Richmond’s must-read newsletter VideoNuze


Baker and Hill Graphic Design – Creativity with Clarity

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ESPN Doubles Down on Docs

Live Sports is the most costly component of Gold Standard pay TV packages worldwide.

So it’s interesting to see ESPN bolster its offering with an expanded commitment to docs:

  • ESPN Films is creating an annual documentary film series that extends the successful 30 for 30 series
  • ESPN Films on Classic: ESPN Classic channel will program films for 50 hours each weekend
    • ESPN Classic is distributed to 60+/- million U.S. homes
  • ESPN Films will also acquire sports docs to complement the channel’s extensive catalog
  • Here’s ESPN’s press release


Pawn Stars is the Dominator!

Here are the Top 10 U.S. cable programs among A18-49 (000) for the week starting June 6:

Pawn Stars3,3751030PHistoryFactual
Pawn Stars3,0521000PHistoryFactual
Swamp People2,222HistoryFactual
American Pickers2,103HistoryFactual
American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior 2,069DiscoveryFactual
Deadliest Catch 2,057DiscoveryFactual
Secret Life of the American Teenager2,003FamilyScripted

Source: Nielsen Media Research

So how did Pawn Stars get to the top?


Prize for Original Unscripted Treatments

A&E Network and the New York Television Festival are introducing an innovative program seeking original unscripted television treatments from independent producers and production companies

  • Concepts and treatments should center on individuals or small groups that represent unique points of view
  • 25 semi-finalists will be presented to A&E development executives
  • Five finalists, selected by A&E, will each receive notes on their projects and $2,500 to shoot additional tape
  • One winner, selected by A&E, will be awarded $10,000 and will participate in the production of the network pilot presentation
  • To be considered, producers must submit a short treatment (1-2 pages) along with a brief video introducing the subject(s)
  • The NYTVF accepts entries from June 20 through July 15, 2011
  • Free to enter
  • Click here for more info
  • And here for: A+E Networks Showers Its ‘Preferred Producers’ with Valuable Information, Luxury and RESPECT! Why?


  • A&E/NYTVF: ‘Great initiative’
  • Emerging producers: ‘Go for it!!’


Coming Soon

  • OWN: Options for Oprah’s network?
  • 3net: 3D Profile
  • More on PBS Strands
  • Kickstarter Case Study: Do’s and Don’ts for Online Funding
  • And much more



Sunnyside of the Doc
La Rochelle, France
June 21-24
3D Where is the Money?
For a year now, 3D has been on the rise. Initiatives are announced each week.
Is this new format the next El Dorado, despite the heavy technical constraints?
Between public subsidies, industrial partnerships, TV copros and theatrical releases:
What is the path to successfully finance a 3D project?
What is the cost premium for 3D vs HD?

Ghislaine Le Rhun-Gautier, head of 3D project, Orange (France)
Baptiste Heynemans CNC (NTP) (France)
Laurent Dondey, DP La Géode (France)
Moderator: Peter Hamilton, DocumentaryTélé
June 23, 5PM

Also: Trends in U.S. Television
What do U.S. broadcasters want? Who is getting the work? And how much do they pay?
Channels want series led by ‘big characters’. Reality keeps on rising.
There is less demand for individual documentaries and limited series.
Meanwhile, HBO, PBS, OWN and a handful of U.S. channels commission documentaries.
What are their filters? And is the U.S. market open to international coproductions?
Steve Burns, Veteran network executive
Peter Hamilton, DocumentaryTélé
Stephen Harris, A&E
June 22, 630PM