StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Sunnyside of the Doc: U.S. Network Trends. Who’s Paying for 3D Production?

Sunnyside rang our belle for conviviality, access and solid new business

  • Much has been written about a tide of Anglo-Saxons flowing from La Rochelle to South Yorkshire after Sheffield Doc/Fest rescheduled from autumn to late spring
  • But the seats of any non-attending Americans and Brits were taken by an impressive wave of delegates from Sunnyside’s target markets in Asia and Latin America
  • And many key Anglo-Saxons channels and prodco’s were well represented

3D Where is the Money?

Here’s Variety‘s setup of our panel

Two 3D Takeaways

1. Ghislaine Le Rhun-Gautier is head of Orange’s 3D project.  She described how distributors worldwide are partnering to populate the emerging 3D market with documentaries

  • Orange, DirecTV, Sky and other players are not co-producing 3D projects
  • But they are ‘actively facilitating’ projects by jointly pre-buying programs
  • Budgets range from E20,000 to E100,000 / hour for exceptional projects

2. Laurent Dondey is a 3D evangelist who heads the La Géode 3D cinema in Paris

  • He described an insatiable demand for high-budget factual programs in 3D
  • His screen are constantly sold out
  • Several projects have earned huge windfall profits
  • Budgets of several millions are not uncommon
  • (Watch out for our upcoming report: ‘Docs on the Big Screen’)

Our apologies for lacking the space to report the contributions of all our expert panelists:

  • Masaru Ikeo, NHK’s 3D Center; Dong-Joon Kim, Korea Educational Broadcasting System; and Baptiste Heynemann, CNC France.
  • Thanks also to session producer Veronique Legendre

Trends in U.S. Television

For commercial channels:

  • Series rule
    • Demand continues to evaporate for limited series and specials
  • Series must satisfy four key criteria:
    • Strong characters
    • Risk / Jeopardy
    • Unique access
    • And resolution in each episode
  • Pitch with video
    • Either a character reel or sizzle tape
    • Paper rarely cuts it any more
  • The development process is shifting
    • The cost of program development is shifting from channels to producers
    • Producers are being squeezed: their ‘cost of sales’ is rising while margins are flat
    • (See our reflections on the economics of the Super-producer system)
  • Production budgets are steady
  • U.S. programmers focus on minute-by-minute ratings
    • This condition is spreading to U.K. and other markets, even for public broadcasters

Melanie Wallace shifted the discussion to PBS’s flagship Nova strand of science programs

  • Nova’s audience of 5 million weekly viewers is huge
    • Watch out for our upcoming profile of Nova’s commissioning process

Thanks to Melanie, Steve Burns and A&E’s Stephen Harris for their contributions

And more

Click here for more on Sunnyside from Variety