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Blue Ant International looks to grow its offering in the US

Bryan Gabourie of Blue Ant International discusses the impact of new platforms on the market for premium factual content, particularly in the US, and talks us through the company’s playlist of new titles for C21’s Digital Screenings.


Following the recent appointment of former A+E Networks exec Bryan Gabourie as senior VP of international sales and partnerships, Blue Ant International is intensifying its focus on the fast-changing US market as it looks to secure pre-sales for its growing slate and find new homes for its evergreen catalogue of library titles.


As new platforms and revenue models continue to spring up rapidly in the American marketplace, windowing strategies are becoming increasingly sophisticated for companies building revenue streams across SVoD, AVoD, FAST and pay television outlets.


Bryan Gabourie,
Blue Ant International

Blue Ant International is leading the way in navigating that evolving marketplace. As it gears up for MipTV in April, the company is curating a compelling and diverse slate of projects focused on five main categories: natural history, history, lifestyle, kids and family, and true crime.


In the natural history category, which has historically been one of Blue Ant International’s areas of specialty, the company’s new offerings include Becoming Orangutan (3×60′, NHNZ Worldwide), which provides fresh insights into the world of the orangutan jungle school in the heart of Borneo, where orphaned orangutans are nurtured by specially trained human carers and are taught the skills needed to survive in the wild.


There’s also Wild Dogs: Running With the Pack (6×30′, Icon Films), an examination of the lives of a family of wild dogs, and a pair of hour-long documentaries, How the Wild Things Sleep (1×60, Taglicht) and The Ocean’s Greatest Feast (1×60′, Earth Touch). How the Wild Things Sleep investigates some of the most extreme sleepers in the animal kingdom, while The Ocean’s Greatest Feast follows the largely unexplained migration of billions of fish off the coast of South Africa.


Mysteries from Above
Mysteries from Above

Gabourie, who oversees all sales in the US market, says the titles are illustrative of Blue Ant International’s focus on providing access and unearthing stories that haven’t been told before in the wildlife space.


Blue Ant International is certainly benefiting from the tailwinds of growing global appetite for premium natural history programming. Gabourie attributes the demand to several converging factors.


“Part of it is an increase in the volume of premium productions in that space, certainly, but I also think there is, thankfully, growing awareness around the importance of some of the global issues that these series cover, whether it’s conservation or environmentalism,” he says.


The Ocean's Greatest Feast
The Ocean’s Greatest Feast

“It also speaks to co-viewing and family viewing content that is more and more important, not just for the platforms we’re partnering with but for the audiences that they’re trying to grasp.”


On the history side, Gabourie says Blue Ant International is “doubling down” on its efforts, with new titles including The Lost Colony Of Roanoke: New Evidence (2×60’/1×120′, Saloon Media/BriteSpark Films), which unearths new evidence about a group of English colonists who disappeared off the island of Roanoke around 400 years ago.


Also on the slate is season three of Ice Vikings (8×60′, Farpoint Films), an exploration of the wild and dangerous world of commercial ice fishing in the North; Ancient Earth: Dinosaurs of the Frozen Continent (2×60′, NHNZ Worldwide in coproduction with Giant Screen Films), a deep scientific dive into the history of Antarctica and its various phases of climate change; and Mysteries From Above (10×60′, Saloon Media), which uses advanced camera tech to investigate significant historic and contemporary sites from eye-popping vantage points.


Detention Adventure
Detention Adventure

Gabourie says the company’s growing focus on history programming is “very complementary to our natural history content, and to the existing partnerships we have across that space. It allows us to diversify our catalogue further.”


Many of the history series on Blue Ant International’s slate are envisioned as multi-season shows, which is a key piece of the US strategy. Gabourie says the goal is to turn some of its returnable series into “brands in and of themselves” which can in turn become drivers for larger partnerships with buyers in the US marketplace.


Shows with “multiple lives and multiple windows” are a “crucial piece of the calculus in each stage of our strategy in the market, as pre-sales, as volume drivers and in multi-window monetisation for our partners,” he says.


In the lifestyle genre, Blue Ant International is building a slate that focuses on “snackable, bingeable” content that viewers can dip in and out of without needing to commit to watching every moment of an episode or series. “It’s evergreen content that has a life on both linear and VoD platforms,” says Gabourie.


Making House
Making House

The company is introducing two new renovation shows to buyers this season: Making House (13×30′) and Dining INNvasion (13×30′), both from General Purpose Entertainment. Making House follows an interior designer and her contractor husband as they gut their forever home while living out of a cramped apartment as they prepare for their fourth child. Dining INNvasion, meanwhile, sees chef Victor Barry and event planner Rebecca Wise help desperate resort owners rejuvenate their businesses.


On its kids and family programming slate, Blue Ant International is also bringing season three of the tween series Detention Adventure (31×11’, LoCo Motion Pictures/Broken Compass Films) to the market.


The third season of this tween-focused series continues to follow three nerdy friends and the school bully, this time working to uncover a secret and hidden Lawren Harris painting. When they are sent to a dilapidated Island School, they soon realise that it is more than it appears to be and might just hold the answers that they are looking for.


Ice Vikings
Ice Vikings

Kids and family is another area that Blue Ant International is looking to grow, says Gabourie, describing Detention Adventure as an “evergreen, many-lives title” that taps into the vast market appetite for co-viewing programming.


Also on the slate is true crime series Evil By Design (3×60’, Blue Ant Studios), which tells the story of disgraced fast-fashion mogul Peter Nygard, who is accused of rape, sexual assault and human trafficking in incidents spanning four decades and at least four countries. The limited series comes on the heels of Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell, also produced by Blue Ant Studios.


Gabourie says Evil By Design is a “perfect example of the kind of true crime we want to bring to the market, because it provides unbelievably unique access that will deliver audiences in this crazy chase for eyeballs that all these new platforms are competing for.”


Expect to see more additions to the true crime slate, says Gabourie: “It’s a space that continues to kill it with audiences, and we certainly want to be growing that piece of our catalogue.”


Ancient Earth: Dinosaurs Of The Frozen Continent
Ancient Earth: Dinosaurs Of The Frozen Continent

While the onset of the pandemic brought about a short-term uptick in demand for library content, Gabourie says that trend looks set to continue. Due to shifts in the marketplace, namely an expansion of the number of platforms, Gabourie believes there is a longer tail for licensing library content than there was in the past.


“Several years ago I would have said the lifespan was shorter than it is today,” notes Gabourie.


“A couple of things have happened. There’s massive growth in the number of platforms that are competing with one another, and massive growth in what I would call niche platforms that are tapping audiences that are very separate and apart from one another. If you look at the audiences for the pay TV world versus direct-to-consumer multi-cast channels, there’s not a ton of overlap and therefore you’re able to tap audiences with a five-, seven- or 10-year-old show that hasn’t been exposed to them previously.


Evil by Design: Surviving Nygård
Evil by Design: Surviving Nygård

“So it breathes new life into these long-running series that are proven. You find traction in other windows and therefore longer-tail success.”


Speaking more broadly, Gabourie says Blue Ant International is looking to continue to diversify its distribution slate as it forges multi-faceted relationships with a spectrum of buyers in the US.


“Having a diverse array of storytelling is a massively important part of our business strategy and in answering the need for premium content that can live across platforms and across windows, as well as optimising the opportunities for our partners.”

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