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Banijay Rights

Programming Profile

Escapism-heavy slate from Banijay Rights


Topicality and escapism are the two big themes emerging from Banijay Rights’ C21 Digital Screening, on both the scripted and unscripted side.


While it is difficult to predict anything too far into the future just now, if you had to hazard a guess at audience demands then escapism and topicality are likely to feature quite highly on your list of programme choices.


Escapism to take them away from a world where they’re not allowed to leave the house and topicality because the world has changed so much in such a short space of time content not reflecting it could easily look dated.


For a distributor like Banijay Rights, which shops both scripted and unscripted content, it could be fair to assume the escapism would come from the drama and the topicality from the factual, but there’s plenty of both on both sides of the slate.


Caroline Torrance, Banijay Rights

Caroline Torrance, the distributor’s head of scripted programming, was able to get a new catalogue under the lockdown wire with a launch at the London Screenings in February. “It gave us an opportunity to showcase our key dramas that will launch in the first part of the year,” she says. “Looking back now, we were so lucky to be able to get everybody in the room and screen the promos when we did.”


The slate is crime-focused, making the most of having prodigious producers of the genre, such as Sweden’s Yellow Bird and Zodiak Belgium, as part of the ever-expanding Banijay Group.


Thin Ice
Thin Ice

Thin Ice (8×45’) was produced by Yellow Bird in coproduction with Iceland’s Sagafilm for Scandinavian SVoD service C More, TV4 in Sweden, France Télévisions, Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE and Iceland’s RUV.


It stars Wallander’s Lena Endre and is based on an idea from her and Søren Stærmose (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). So far, so Nordic noir, but the series is set in Greenland and the plot revolves around the kidnapped crew of a Swedish oil research vessel, with the Russians suspected of foul play. Described as a “timely and thought-provoking thriller,” the show plays with issues of climate change, geo-politics and Arctic exploitation.


“It tackles topical issues and it’s set in a unique location in Greenland where nobody had filmed drama before. It looks absolutely stunning as well as being a topical thriller about oil drilling and climate change,” Torrance says. Something a little out of the ordinary.


GR5: Into the Wilderness
GR5: Into the Wilderness

That stunning landscape escapism is also prevalent in GR5: Into the Wilderness, currently airing on VRT in Belgium and later this year on ZDF Neo in Germany. It’s another series where a basic crime story – a girl disappears while hiking and is presumed to have committed suicide only for truths to emerge down the line – is given a new set of twists and spectacular locations.


The 8×50’ drama was produced by Zodiak Belgium and Red Balloon and filmed on the GR5 hiking trail, which stretches across Europe from the Netherlands down to the South of France through the Alps. “As people can’t travel from their sofa this series will give them something spectacular to look at, as well as the intriguing plot,” Torrance says.


“It’s filmed on the GR5 and is the story of a girl who disappears, and then five years later her friends decide to undertake the same route in homage to her, but on the way start to discover things aren’t what they seem and something more sinister may be afoot. It’s stunning, with an amazing landscape of the Alps and through France. That’s exactly what people will want to watch when they’re stuck in their living rooms and can’t go anywhere.


“It’s crime but it’s a much more psychological story than that. It’s about this group of friends and how they discover what happened to their friend and the baggage they bring along with them.”


The Hunt for a Killer (6×45’), which is based on a real-life Swedish murder in 1989, is another Yellow Bird production for pubcaster SVT, while the prodco is also working with Germany’s ARD Degeto on Bäckström, about a maverick detective, for TV4 and C More. Later in the year will come We Got This (6×45’) from Jarowskij and Film i Väst for SVT and Viaplay, which follows one man’s quest to solve the 30-year murder of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme and collect the handsome reward.


There are also second seasons of Rebecka Martinsson, the crime thriller based on the best-selling novels by Åsa Larsson, and S4C’s duel-language crime drama Bang on the catalogue.


“Crime series remain really popular,” Torrance says. “There’s a never-ending appetite for it but it is a crowded marketplace and buyers look to people with a great track record of scripting, producing and casting shows. That’s how you cut through, and working with producers like Yellow Bird and Jarowskij certainly gives us that.”


Tim Mutimer, Banijay Rights

In unscripted, Tim Mutimer, head of distribution for Banijay Group and CEO of Banijay Rights, says the team is “seeing the result of a lot of first-look deals we’ve done over the past year.” As well as working with producers within the Banijay Group, the sales arm has been able to sign up third-party producers such as UK indie Chatterbox Films, Scottish prodco Firecrest and London-based Proper Content.


“We’ve done a lot of first-look deals over the last year, signed up some really good, up-and-coming producers, and we’re starting to see the results of those deals,” Mutimer says. “There’s some exciting content coming through to supplement that, which comes from our own companies within the group.


“We’re interested in the passion the producers have, their experience, and we back people we think have a really good chance of getting commissions. They’re also companies with programming in areas we think will complement the slate that we’ve got.”


The Segregation Experiment
The Segregation Experiment

Chatterbox, for instance, is behind the BBC’s new show Stacey Dooley Investigates: The Whale Hunters (1×60’), part of the successful, youth-skewing factual strand Stacey Dooley Investigates.


“Chatterbox has a nice development slate with a lot of fact ent in it. When we’re looking at companies to work with we talk carefully about the slate in development and if it has programming we believe is interesting, has a chance of getting commissioned and has international appeal,” Mutimer says.

There’s also another attraction, seen in Proper Content’s The Segregation Experiment (w/t), a 2×60’ show and, crucially, format, that is now part of Banijay’s slate, having originally been commissioned by Channel 4. The show is based on a social experiment into unconscious racial bias in a class of ordinary 11- and 12-year-olds. As well as being a “loud, shouty, new and fresh idea,” it also ticks another box for Mutimer when it comes to looking into a first-look deal with producers.


One Night in the Museum
One Night in the Museum

“When looking at a slate we take into consideration not only whether the show is a good fit for our sales team but whether producers within our group will be able to work with the IP they’re creating in other territories,” he says. Watch out for versions of The Segregation Experiment springing up everywhere in the near future.


One Night in the Museum, a 4×60’ series from Firecrest Films for the BBC, places children in a museum after-hours and is another show available from a first-look deal as finished tape or format.


The theme of escapism also runs through the company’s factual slate. The Pet Talent Agency: Barking Mad (1×60’), from Nineteen 11 for Channel 4, is all about larger-than-life characters while Britain’s Most Expensive Home: Building for a Billionaire (1×60’), from RDF Television for C4, looks at the eccentric crew hired to transform a London mansion.


Temptation Island
Temptation Island

The US revivals of reality formats Temptation Island and Wife Swap are available, along with BBC1’s recent 2×60’ commission Borderland With Sue Perkins.


A partnership with John Osbourne at Touchdown Films could tick a number of boxes for broadcasters in the coronavirus era – content based on archive rather than requiring producers in the field and high-quality series delivered on a budget. “John works a lot with archive, and has strong relationships with some of the big agencies,” says Mutimer. “He can do films and series at budgets that make them affordable to commission, so we can do that with just a pre-sale and distribution advance. He’s a really accomplished filmmaker and has delivered high-quality series.”


Artist to Icon
Artist to Icon

Artist to Icon (10×60’), for art-focused US cablenet Ovation, is one of his shows, looking at how some of the most famous stars in the world reached the top. That is also now part of Banijay Rights’ slate.


“We’re also being asked by a lot of broadcasters about male-skewing programming because a lot of the sport content is postponed,” Mutimer says, pointing to SAS: Who Dares Wins. The show has aired for five seasons on Channel 4 with a celebrity version in the works, for three seasons in Denmark and one in the US, and will soon have an Australian finished-tape version available too.


And, of course, true crime. “It’s a perennial area of interest,” Mutimer admits, but adds: “Netflix and the streamers have helped find new ways to look at crime and there’s now a big appetite for different forms from broadcasters.”


SAS: Who Dares Wins
SAS: Who Dares Wins

Murder Trial: The Disappearance of Margaret Fleming (2×60’), from Firecrest Films for BBC2, showed how this could be achieved without necessarily having a Netflix budget to spend.


“Firecrest is a prodco that has worked with local police force in Scotland over a number of years on several programmes and there is a trust there that gets them incredible access,” Mutimer says. “This show had the advantage of being able to film the actual trial, and this is the first time for many years in Scotland this has been the case. The access to the police and local community combined with the actual trial itself made it a really unique show.”

More programming profiles

  • 03-03-2021

    Banijay Rights’ Tim Mutimer explores the new opportunities in the market, in particular broadcaster-backed OTT services, and outlines the company’s London Screenings playlist.


    Business has been “incredibly strong” during the Covid-19 pandemic for international distributor Banijay Rights, according to Tim Mutimer, executive VP of sales and acquisitions for EMEA.


    As audiences’ habits shift and on-demand viewing becomes the norm, an increased need for content has been particularly evident amongst streaming players and broadcasters with a VoD offering, the exec notes.


    “Business has been incredibly strong and I guess that is because people around the world are spending much more time in front of their screens consuming content, so broadcasters and on-demand platforms are really hungry for content that can refresh their services. We’ve seen launches of lots of new VoD platforms since we’ve been in lockdown as well,” Mutimer says.