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Wanted: What UK Factual Entertainment Commissioners Want.

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In the final of a series of reports from the Intelligent Factual Festival, the factual entertainment commissioners from Channel 4, Five, BBC and Sky One reveal what kind of programmes they are looking to commission.


What works:

Blood, Sweat and Takeaways (BBC3) – “a great way to tackle quite difficult topical current affairs issues, and it got a fantastic audience, which proves if you give it the right tone that appeals to the audience, they will come to more difficult topics,” said Mirella Breda.

New talent – “fact ent is one of the few genres where you can try out new talent with confidence, if they’ve got the credentials and the knowledge of the area… like Mary Portas, for example…she’d never been on television before, but she absolutely knows her sector, she knows what she’s talking about, and she talks about it with confidence; she literally opens a door to a world that the viewers maybe didn’t know very much about before.”


BBC 1 factual entertainment for 8pm that will attract a broad audience as Masterchef does – you don’t need to be an avid chef to enjoy it. How could the same success be achieved with a different territory?

BBC2 – 8pm and 9pm is where most of the  money is. Looking for a low-cost stripped event to replace Masterchef, perhaps something with a competition narrative that builds week on week but in a different territory than food.

Will consider strong 3 x 60’s.

Channel 4

What works:

Talent-led fact ent programmes – “fresh expertise with conceits built around them,” said Andrew Mackenzie.


Four or five fact ent series for 2010. “At least half of those should have talent at their heart.”

Large scale returnable formats for 9pm – same sense of scale as The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den or The Restaurant – longer than just 4- 6 episodes. Perhaps built around talent or competition elements.

Entertainment skewed factual programming for 10pm.


What works:

Big names like Robson Green or Rory Bremner or Paul Merton ” helps drive an audience to us that we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise attract,” said Steve Gowans.

Contemporary history.


A magazine show for Monday 8pm.

Talent-led features with “a happy ending for the deserving, and an unhappy ending for the undeserving.”

Talent with a genuine passion for something.

Fast turnaround, celebrity access, pop culture docs for 10pm

Sky One

What works:


“Noisy passionate programmes, that you would give up a night out to stay in to watch'” said Emma Read.

8pm Monday – Friday fact ent slot – lots of opportunity. Looking for great formats that has really good talent. Happy to look at format first and then discuss talent.

Shared viewing or slightly male-skewing programmes at 8pm.

Repeatable formats.

Stuff about the way we live now, but with a quirky sense of humour.

Immersive talent a la Ross Kemp.

NOT – third party stories about A list stars eg. Brangelina’s bodyguard tells all.

NOT – list shows as they are not channel defining.

See also: What the UK Specialist Factual Commissioners Want and What UK Digital Channels Want


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