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Lyle sweetens rights deals

MIPDOC: National Geographic CEO David Lyle has invited producers to pitch his channel with ideas they never would have previously considered and promised to be flexible with rights.

David Lyle

David Lyle

Lyle, who joined Nat Geo six months ago, is leading a transformation of the US cable channel’s schedule that he described as “more than an evolution but less bloody than a revolution.”

Speaking to delegates at Mipdoc in Cannes today, he said he feared his channel was missing out on good ideas because producers wrongly believe they won’t be interested.

Lyle said: “We’re interested in a broad range of stuff. Over the past six months we’ve asked producers to pitch us shows they think are for somebody else and we’ve found it fascinating. People can be hung up on an image of the channel but we want to try different things.”

The channel launches its new 10-part reality series Wicked Tuna in the US this Sunday and Lyle said the channel will now skew 75% in favour of such returnable series as opposed to its previous skew towards one-offs.

One-offs on Nat Geo would now have to be “super special, wonderful, with terrific access” and the network would pay “whatever it costs” to get them for the remaining 25% of the schedule, according to Lyle. “The singles should be bigger than Ben Hur,” he said.

Lyle admitted this would increase the overlap between his channel, Discovery and the A+E Networks bouquet but said he hoped his channel would succeed by “taking more risks.”

He also reassured international broadcasters in the audience who currently buy Nat Geo docs that he didn’t believe a switch to longer running series or the recent merger of the company’s sales teams would affect them greatly.

Lyle also stated his intention to return distribution rights of long-running series to the producers once they’d come to the end of their natural lives on Nat Geo as part of a more flexible approach to producer rights.

“I’ve banned the phrase ‘We don’t do that here’ because in terms of our negotiations we will look at all aspects. Agents were previously banned at the channel and we didn’t do development deals, but that has all changed,” he said.

“We still like to buy all the rights because we have many international channels. But we will look at windows, we will coproduce with people who have grabbed a couple of territories and we can look at the others, and one of the things I’m looking at is the material reverting back to the producer after a long run.”


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