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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Magnify Media

Programming Profile

Magnify’s new focus

03-06-2021

UK distributor Magnify Media is heading into summer with a fresh and varied slate of factual and scripted content. CEO Andrea Jackson talks about her C21 Digital Screenings playlist, the latest industry trends and how last year’s takeover by UK indie Plimsoll is helping the company to grow.

 

Before examining the shows on Magnify Media’s playlist individually, a glance at the slate reveals a wide variety of genres, as well as a selection of titles that were all shown on major broadcasters before being put on sale by Magnify. CEO Andrea Jackson says this was a conscious decision.

 

“One of the things I’m excited about in relation to our slate is that all the programmes were made for prestigious broadcasters. For buyers everywhere, that seal of approval is the first thing they look for, and I’m thrilled every single one of our shows has one attached to it.”

 

The broadcasters behind Magnify’s shows come from all over the world, with the UK, the US, France, Ireland, Canada and Norway all represented on the playlist. Jackson says this variety helps define the strategy for each show. One example is Mental, a drama made for pubcaster France Télévisions and its youth-skewing streaming platform Slash.

 

Jackson
Andrea Jackson, Magnify Media

Adapted from a Finnish series, the show follows teenagers in a psychiatric ward as they attempt to find their way out. It has aired for two seasons in France, and Jackson says having shows from countries like France, whose output is “en vogue,” is crucial for global sales.

 

“It’s not just having the big names attached – it’s what those names stand for,” she adds. “The creativity that we’re seeing coming out of French scripted content at the moment is amazing, and to have a show made for both France TV and its streamer is brilliant for distribution.”

 

Jackson also mentions In the Army Now (12×15’), this time a scripted format offering on Magnify’s Digital Screenings playlist. Originally shown on Norway’s NRK, the comedy is a departure from established Nordic drama and looks to build on NRK’s recent comedy success. Focusing on new recruits in the Norwegian army, In the Army Now has had two top-rating seasons in Norway. Jackson says Norwegian players, and particularly NRK, are renowned for their creativity and trailblazing in scripted content, which makes international sales much easier.

 

Mental
Mental

UK broadcasters are also prominent on the Magnify playlist. Among them is BBC1 reality series My Unique B&B, in which craftsman Simon Parfett helps people create a one-off bed & breakfast business by repurposing a horsebox, a boat and even a pigsty, among others. Jackson says the fact the show has been successful on the UK pubcaster’s flagship channel increases its sell-on value.

 

Another UK format on Magnify’s slate is Handmade: Good With Wood (6×60’), made for commercially funded pubcaster Channel 4 and also available as finished tape. The show features nine of the UK’s top woodworkers competing to be crowned the best in the country through a series of imaginative challenges judged by experts.

 

For Jackson, both these formats bring something very popular in factual entertainment right now – natural surroundings. Good With Wood is set in a purpose-built outdoor workshop in the Welsh countryside, while My Unique B&B travels all over the UK.

 

Handmade: Good With Wood
Handmade: Good With Wood

“Both of these titles sit in the pastoral world,” she says. “The setting is this glorious countryside, and you really enjoy seeing the natural world. Our whole slate definitely embraces the appreciation of nature, which is an ongoing trend right now. People have been wanting to escape through their TVs and these shows can help them do that.”

 

Magnify also looks for the added gravitas provided by big names when it comes to entertainment formats. Fridge Wars, for example, is a Canadian format from pubcaster the CBC and The Gurin Company. In the show, top chefs compete to make the best dishes using only what a normal household has in its fridge on that day, with the members of the household then judging which dish is best.

 

Mediawan-owned Aito Media in Finland, France’s WeMake, Polish prodco Rochstar and Endemol Shine in Germany have already licensed the remake rights to the series, evidence of the format’s ability to travel.

 

Fridge Wars
Fridge Wars

The final factual entertainment offering from Magnify represents the distributor’s sales strategy more than any. Fittest Family, from Irish pubcaster RTÉ, has run for eight seasons since 2014, attempting to find Ireland’s most physically fit family. Jackson says the show is the perfect example of the type of formats Magnify wants to acquire. “This format has an exemplary ratings track record, it’s primetime family-oriented viewing as kids love watching other kids beat adults at physical tasks.

 

It also brings back the element of the pastoral – the challenges the families undergo are in all sorts of landscapes, and the geography becomes a character in the show. These kinds of shows are definitely worth taking the time to pitch to local broadcasters.

 

Jackson talks about a boom in Natural History and Malika the Lion Queen (1×90’/2×45’) is a pivotal title made by Magnify’s parent company Plimsoll Productions and follows the journey of the titular lioness from cub to adulthood. Actor Angela Bassett narrates the show, which is available now as a finished programme after airing on US network Fox on Easter Sunday.

 

Malika the Lion Queen
Malika the Lion Queen

Magnify is building its premium doc slate with A Baby Reindeer’s First Christmas, made for Channel 4 and available for purchase as a finished show. In the Scottish Highlands, herders prepare reindeer calves for their first ever Yuletide season. The one-off was originally shown on Christmas Eve last year, and Jackson says its family appeal is key.

 

“Family-oriented factual titles are important to both linear buyers and VoD players,” she says. “We come back to the appeal of the natural world. You can lose yourself in these sorts of shows and they’re very uplifting.”

 

The variety in Magnify’s slate continues with Saving the DeLorean Time Machine (1×50’), made by Cricket Pictures and premiering on Discovery in the US. The doc reviews the history of the iconic Back to the Future car and how one of the trilogy’s producers brought fans together to restore the original movie prop to its former glory.

 

Saving the DeLorean Time Machine
Saving the DeLorean Time Machine

Another Magnify show that looks to roll back the years is Makeup: A Glamorous History (3×48’), made by Plimsoll for BBC2 and available as finished tape. Starting in the Georgian period and moving on to Victorians before ending in the 1920s, each episode takes a look at the weird and wonderful things that people did to make themselves beautiful.

 

Frida Kahlo (1×60’), meanwhile, is a documentary film produced for theatrical release and broadcast on UK culture channel Sky Arts that also goes back in time. The documentary examines the work and life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, attempting to get a glimpse of what her life was really like behind the canvas, including a look at her turbulent marriage to Diego Rivera.

 

Any factual slate of the past year would be incomplete without a Covid-19 documentary, and Magnify is happy to oblige. World’s Longest Covid Survivor was made for UK commercial broadcaster ITV and follows TV presenter Kate Garraway as she relives her husband’s traumatic battle with coronavirus. Originally called Kate Garraway: Finding Derek, the show aired in March, on the anniversary of lockdown restrictions first being imposed in the UK.

 

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo

With all Magnify’s new shows now revealed, what is the distributor’s strategy to sell them around the world? Jackson says both linear and streaming are valuable to her company, the distinction becoming increasingly out-dated, adding that the most crucial thing to consider is matching content with the right buyers and where it makes sense to organise rights deals in order for the shows to have multi-window exposure. However, she is also quick to point out that Magnify’s sales technique is very specific.

 

“With every title we have, for every territory and for every region, we really think through the order of play, rather than just pitching everybody,” she explains. “We want to have a sense of progression so we can be sure to bring back maximum revenue for the various rights owners. Rather than throwing ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks, we don’t want to waste our buyers’ time or our own. We want to be taking our shows and finding them the best home or homes in every territory.”

 

World’s Longest Covid Survivor
World’s Longest Covid Survivor

Similarly, Jackson is looking for something unique with every show Magnify acquires. She wants premium content that works for a “curated portfolio,” adding: “I am always looking for a distinctiveness in the content we acquire, I think buyers are looking for the same thing.”

 

Finally, Jackson explains that production company Plimsoll’s acquisition of Magnify last September has given the distributor a production pipeline and handed the Bristol-based prodco a dedicated sales arm. “We’d been working together for five years previously, so we all know each other very well,” she adds. “It’s been a natural progression to the relationship and it’s allowed us to grow our business really quickly.

 

“We’ve doubled our turnover in the past year and made new hires. The content pipeline is really helpful, and scaling our business like this means we can look after all our rights owners. We represent all of Plimsoll’s content, and working with premium material means broadcasters and streamers all over the world want to talk to us.”