Please wait...
Please wait...
Please wait...



Programming Profile

3DD on the art of television


UK based 3DD Entertainment focuses on arts, history and true crime programming. Head of sales and co-production Patricia Hickey discusses the company’s C21 Digital Screenings playlist and ongoing industry trends.


Not every company can make the leap from being a full-time distributor, to producing and funding a music series featuring iconic artists such as Kanye West and Amy Winehouse, to then move away from music to shooting period re-enactment shows. But it is one that London-based producer and distributor 3DD Entertainment took with a great deal of determination and commitment.


Launching in 1994 as a music programme sales company working with musicians including U2 and The Spice Girls, 3DD went on to coproduce performance series Later… With Jools Holland for UK pubcaster BBC2. It subsequently launched live-music performance series The Album Chart Show (aka London Live) with UK commercial public broadcaster Channel 4.


Patricia Hickey,
3DD Entertainment

But when interest among broadcasters and audiences for music-based programming began to wane, 3DD decided to change its remit by building a library and no longer being a distributor of third-party producers. The decision was risky and the company’s owners, Dominic and Lyndy Saville, had to commit all their assets and find a knowledgeable lender. When banks could not understand IP value, the Savilles found one that saw their experience of selling for 25 years, and ability to make quality programmes that 3DD would own, as its future.


The company had some early supporters from AMC’s Sundance Channel and Netflix, which liked 3DD’s quality and were still in their acquisition and mass volume launch phase. One of the early projects was Raiders of the Lost Art, a series (created by Cal Saville) that investigates the curious cases where cherished works of art have vanished, and the show was picked up by UKTV-owned factual channel Yesterday.


Raiders of the Lost Art was a big risk that eventually paid off, according to 3DD’s head of sales and coproduction, Patricia Hickey. “Having come off the music stage with 50 people, our production team was down to five people and we went to work filming period re-enactment. This changed everything for us, and since then we have focused on programmes including historical crime series, theft, murder and missing cases,” she says. “But arts and culture shows still form the backbone of 3DD’s work, and we have always continued to produce arts content.”


Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was? A Tale of The Spencer Ancestor
Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was?
A Tale of The Spencer Ancestor

Today 3DD’s core genres are arts, history and crime, says Hickey, as reflected in its playlist for C21 Digital Screenings. “20th century history told through cinema is also always an overarching theme for 3DD,” she adds.


Kicking off the line-up is royal history programme Princess Diana: Who Do You Think She Was? A Tale of The Spencer Ancestor (1×60’), which features contributors including best-selling Tudor biographer Sarah Gristwood and University of Oxford history lecturer Dr Luke Blaxill.


“This is a piece that explores Diana’s past. We all know what happened to her in the end, but where did she come from? Her heritage is rich in royal and aristocratic blood, while the Spencer family was at one point the richest family in England. The series looks at how this impacted her, her childhood and her decisions later in life,” explains Hickey.


Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession
Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession

Also on the history slate and an 80th anniversary piece is Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession (2×60’), about the German dictator’s relationship with Russia. “Our documentary tells the story of Hitler’s obsession with conquering the Soviet Union and annihilating its people. Using world-leading experts, we delve into one of the bloodiest and most destructive episodes in human history, revealing the rampant obsession by which Hitler eventually created his own demise,” says Hickey.


Sir Max Hastings, historian and author of All Hell Let Loose, and Sir Anthony Beevor, historian and author of Stalingrad, are among the contributors who take part in Hitler: Uncovering His Fatal Obsession.


Hickey argues that history programming needs to be made with a creative angle in order to attract buyers. “So many stories have been told repeatedly, so buyers are looking for new angles that will capture the viewer’s imagination,” she says, “Questions like, ‘What doesn’t the audience already know?’ and, ‘What can you reveal to audiences?’ are good ways to tackle a history show. That’s why you have many titles such as The Secrets of…, Uncovered or Revealed.”


WWII & Cinema
WWII & Cinema

“The Second World War is endlessly popular, but you need to keep it interesting and there’s a different interest in each territory. In the UK, most channels are looking for a UK focus on the war, but this will be harder to sell internationally where our clients are looking for broader topics.”


To approach history programming more inventively, 3DD produces shows that explore the past through the prism of cinema. This includes Digital Screenings playlist picks WWII & Cinema (3×60’), hosted by author and Empire film magazine co-editor Ian Nathan and author and journalist Bonnie Greer, and Cold War & Cinema (3×60’).


“Cold War & Cinema is a follow-up from WWII & Cinema and charts the Cold War from the end of WWII to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The historians in the series tell us the story of these volatile times through film,” Hickey says.


Classic Literature & Cinema
Classic Literature & Cinema

Continuing the theme of cinema on the line-up is Discovering Film – Tom Hanks (1×60’), a glimpse into the life and career of the Hollywood star including his work in films such as Forrest Gump and The Green Mile, and Classic Literature & Cinema (3×60’), which explores novel adaptations on the silver screen, narrated by British journalist and presenter Mariella Frostrup.


The Directors (60×60’), which looks at the 20th century’s most iconic film directors, from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino, and Discovering Westerns on Film (1×90’), which sees a group of film critics and writers select their favourite Western movies of all time, round off the cinema-themed programming on the playlist.


In the crime space, 3DD has put forward Murder Maps (27×60’), Railway Murders (6×60’) and The Missing (5×60’) for C21’s Digital Screenings.


Murder Maps
Murder Maps

Presented by actor Nicholas Day, drama-doc series Murder Maps investigates the most shocking and surprising murder cases in British history, from Jack the Ripper to Amelia Dyer. Originally produced for UKTV, Foxtel in Australia and global streaming giant Netflix, the true crime series has also been picked up by broadcasters including ZDF in Germany and Viasat World.


Railway Murders is the show’s spin-off, according to Hickey, and is also presented by Day, who looks back on the most notorious murders to take place on British railways. During the series, audiences get an insight into the world of the killers as it is shown how police ingenuity and early forensic work helped bring murderers to justice.


Regarding The Missing, Hickey says: “It follows in the footsteps of Murder Maps and Railway Murders and looks into some of the most mysterious and intriguing missing person cases. Lord Lucan, a British peer who disappeared after being suspected of murder, and Ben Needham, a 21-month-old boy who disappeared on the Greek island of Kos in the 1991, are just some of the subjects that our expert panel tries to trace.”


Comedy Legends with Barry Cryer
Comedy Legends with Barry Cryer

Arts programme Comedy Legends with Barry Cryer (40×60’) completes 3DD’s playlist. Arts programming has always remained a core pillar of the firm’s work, Hickey adds. “For arts content, our buyers love nostalgia – going back to a better, easier or even just a more familiar time. We do this a lot in our shows Stars of the Silver Screen and Comedy Legends with Barry Cryer,” Hickey says.


Each episode of Comedy Legends with British icon Barry Cryer celebrates one artist, such as Tina Fey and Eddie Murphy, and includes highlights from their comedy careers while host and comedy writer Cryer recalls some of his funniest moments working with each of them.


Produced in association with Sky Arts in the UK, the series also includes contributions from comedians Tony Hawks, Clive Anderson, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Steve Punt and Stephen Armstrong, the comedy critic from UK newspaper The Times.


Railway Murders
Railway Murders

As for future programming trends, Hickey believes shows that explore alternative theories are sought by buyers. “Specifically for the genres that we work in – for history, for example – there are a few popular trends,” she explains. “But ‘what if’ programmes are very interesting for buyers. What if JFK was never assassinated? What if Diana never married Charles? It’s a tricky concept, and you need some great talking heads involved to take the story into a few different directions, which are ultimately all fantasy but still fun for the viewer.”


Overall, 3DD has had a “positive” past year, according to Hickey, despite the coronavirus pandemic. “We had some delays but nothing that impacted us greatly – other than the cash flow forecasts being pushed back. As soon as restrictions lifted, we were back in there filming talking heads for the programmes we had already committed to and sold, and that broadcasters were waiting for,” she says.


Two shows, Classic Films & Literature and anti-racism doc 400 Years: Taking the Knee, made in association with A+E Networks, were made amid the pandemic. “There was a delay that impacted us like everyone else who produces,” Hickey says. “But as we have invested over time, and created a large catalogue for a company our size, we had a pretty positive year, considering all of the difficulties the industry was experiencing. Broadcasters and distributors have been supportive as best they can.”

More programming profiles

  • 13-03-2023

    Dominic Saville of 3DD Productions outlines how the UK-based factual boutique prodco has managed to build its 1,000-title library on limited resources and explores his upcoming slate of documentaries.


    3DD Group celebrates its 30th anniversary next year. A tightly knit team, the UK-based indie producer has carved out a reputation as a leading factual content creator with particular expertise in history, culture, royalty and true crime.


    “We’ve evolved the business several times over the years,” says group CEO Dominic Saville, who runs the company with his wife, Lyndy Saville, who heads production. “There have definitely been painful and challenging times, but we’ve managed to build a company of like-minded individuals, retain our independence and created a catalogue of 1,000 evergreen factual programmes.”

  • 14-03-2022

    Dominic Saville, founder and CEO of 3DD Group, discusses the company’s evolution through the past 30 years and reveals the slate of programmes he is showcasing on C21’s Digital Screenings and taking out on the physical events circuit this spring.


    There are two eras of 3DD. The London-based group made its name in music programming, representing third-party companies, artists and managers as a distributor.


    It then moved into co-financing the BBC’s long-running music series Later… With Jools Holland and, after the turn of the millennium, bringing it into the HD age and releasing specials on Warner’s DVD. The company’s first major foray into production was producing its own series, The Album Chart Show, with Channel 4 and a global group of buyers as the HD revolution was upon us.