Factual programming: History gets contemporary

CANNES: Gone are the days when the classic black and white documentary was enough to take viewers into the innards of history, consumers today are demanding multi layered entertainment even from their factual programming leading to a sea change in the way it is created.

The session Programming Outlook 2010 for Factual Programming discussed the new trends that were emerging in history based programming. The panelists were Alliance Atlantis exec VP for Programming Norm Bolen, WGBH International Director Tom Koch, AETN Intl VP for programming Michael Katz and Eagle Rock Entertainment Worldwide MD Peter Worseley.

Necessity is the mother of all invention they say and the need for content creators to connect with the consumers has led them to invent some great new concepts which are cross breeds of genres like Docu Dramas, Reality TV – Documentary, Documentary and CGI Animation etc.

”We are seeing a blurring of genres in factual programming like the Mission to Mars, which was a Drama Documentary. The new kind of factual content has to include interactivity and entertainment elements to make it engaging for the viewer. The breadth of factual programming is widening” remarked Bolen.

”The classic documentary well produced will always have older viewers but youngsters want fast paced multi faceted programming” he added.

”There was a time when audiences made allowances for niche channels. Those days are gone. We are now competing with the entertainment channels with big programming and marketing budgets,” pointed out Koch.

The panelists opined that the emphasis was shifting towards edgy and gritty realistic programming as opposed to romanticised narration.

Giving some examples Tom shared, ”Pioneer Life, which had two couples participating to experience the lives of great pioneer couples had great ratings. Another experience based show where participants could relive the second World War got 20,000 applicants."

“When HBO came out with Rome, we did a Roman engineering techniques special on History Channel which was a hit with the youngsters” said AETN’s Katz.

Gradually as audiences are demanding more from the content, the budgets are skyrocketing. The growing trend is to internationally co-produce big budget history based shows which would have relevant to the audiences of all of the co pro partners.

Going ahead, History it will be but the treatment will be contemporary.

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