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Wildlife programming soars with Albatross

Anne Olzmann, MD of German distributor Albatross World Sales, discusses how the factual content market has changed and talks us through the new wildlife and crime titles on the company’s playlist for C21’s Digital Screenings this week.


How would you describe the market for factual programming at the moment?
It’s a rapidly evolving market with an increasing hunger for programmes. With new players entering and others merging, or changing strategies, there is always a certain need to adapt. Regarding rights, it’s quite a jungle to navigate at the moment and we need to think of individual sales strategies for each film more than ever before. From a distributor’s perspective, there is also clearly a stronger need to secure programming early on, so we have significantly increased our investments in new programmes and projects for our distribution catalogue.


Anne Olzmann,
Albatross World Sales

Can you tell us about the new wildlife shows on your Digital Screenings playlist?
Superbirds – The Secret Life of Tits (1×52’, Altayfilm/MDR/Arte) takes us into the entertaining, yet also dangerous world of the brave little birds and unveils their secrets. With high-end cinematography, this film is able to show a very intimate portrait and reveal their fascinating universe to the viewers. From everyday problems, neighborhood disputes to jealousy dramas, it shows the challenging yet magical world of tits as never seen before and bring a colourful mix of information, fun and fascination to the TV screens.


The Marvelous Wild World of the Vegetable Garden (1×52’, Längengrad/ Grenouilles Productions/SWR/Arte) reveals a world full of small wonders. A vegetable garden is a pantry, love nest and even a battlefield. It is such a species-rich world that no one would expect, full of big and small dramas. With unique macro and slow-motion shots, this is a nature film of a special kind: a beautiful cinematic appeal for more biodiversity on our own doorstep.


Superbirds – The Secret Life of Tits
Superbirds – The Secret Life of Tits

We’re also launching The Beach – Wildlife Around the Parasol (1×52’, Marco Polo Film/Arte), which is a great programme for the summer months. Beaches are amazing microcosms of nature that unfold between parasols and deckchairs, if you only look closely. The film tells beach stories from the animals’ points of view – sometimes funny, sometimes dramatic and always surprising.


What is the international appeal of these new wildlife shows?
We’re convinced that even the seemingly most local or limited subjects can work globally, if they are wrapped in the right narrative, have something new to them and can delight an audience. Surprising new facts and high-end cinematography that allows a new view on a certain species and an inviting – maybe even humorous – narration seem to be the key to success with broadcasters and the audience. We love films on rather quirky subjects and they tend to work really well for us.


The Marvelous Wild World of the Vegetable Garden
The Marvelous Wild World of the Vegetable Garden

What has been the impact of lockdown on audience demand for wildlife programming?
The hunger for wildlife programming is stronger than ever and combined with the longing for escapism during the pandemic on the one hand and an increasing awareness of our planet’s struggles, this is the perfect moment for nature programmes. During lockdown many people looked outside their window and discovered a lot of beauty in the flora and fauna of their own backyards or in parks nearby and thus grew their appetite for smaller, more intimate stories, such as Superbirds or The Marvelous Wild World of the Vegetable Garden.


What has been the impact of the streaming boom on demand for wildlife programming?
The streaming market is enormous, with new players appearing constantly. We can now work with our more traditional clients – the broadcasters – but also with a variety of new clients in the streaming sector. This development also gives the titles in our catalogue a longer shelf life. We have noticed that streaming platforms are more open to less traditional storytelling and embrace different narrative approaches or genre mixes.


The Beach – Wildlife Around the Parasol
The Beach – Wildlife Around the Parasol

You also have a new true crime show on the slate. Tell us about that.
Well, we’d rather call it a ‘histo-true-crime.’ Crimes That Changed the World (working title) is a three-parter produced by Doclights. Most major crimes are burned into our collective memory because of their cruelty or a spectacular plunder. Yet the mystery surrounding the crime often overshadows the consequences it has on our society. If you take a closer look, you will discover cases that made history because they shaped our understanding of morality, of right and wrong. Cases like the murder of Émile Zola, serial killer Jack the Ripper, the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby and the murder of Sharon Tate shook our societies to the core. This documentary explores how certain crimes changed the laws in Western society.


Crimes That Changed the World
Crimes That Changed the World

Based on historical criminal cases that have had a lasting impact on our lives, the series delves into the past: exploring how our basic human rights developed, how individual crimes became state affairs that shook entire systems, and why the worst criminals are part of our collective memory. This project is in production and we’re looking for pre-sales and partners to join.


With SVoD platforms now embracing the genre, how is true crime programming changing?
There has always been an appetite for true crime shows, but they travel best when the respective crimes are known by a broad audience. The appearance of streamers may help this to open up to lesser known crimes, but I am not sure how well these would work in the TV market. But we are slowly moving towards a bigger financial involvement by streamers early on, so this could be truly helpful for the genre.


Wild Prague
Wild Prague

Albatross recently expanded its team. Can you tell us about those appointments?
With the evolving market, we felt a need to be able to dig deeper into the sales and acquisitions markets. As a boutique distributor, it is important for us to limit the key accounts to a certain amount of clients and producers, so that all parties can be served best, whether that’s the buyer who picks up one hour and is very selective and very involved with a subject, or the buyers who are very specific in their needs or those who are looking for volume. We want to be able to work on a truly tailor-made basis with each of them.


The same goes for the acquisitions market. Until recently most of our producers came from Germany. But in the recent years, we have added several production partners from outside Germany to our producer pool and we’re aiming to actively further explore the producer markets outside Germany to find gems for our catalogue. Therefore, we have decided to expand the sales and acquisitions team and are really happy to have two lovely colleagues, Chunzi Wang and Sofia Jeronimo, joining the team. They not only love documentaries as much as the rest of our team but make Albatross even more international with diverse backgrounds. It will help us tremendously to also develop the multicultural factual universe further, as we’re able to navigate the market in six languages, if needed.


The Cévennes - Hidden Beauty in the South of France
The Cévennes – Hidden Beauty in the South of France

How has the boom in AVoD and FAST channels changed things for Albatross?
The rights navigation has certainly become more complicated. But we are very happy with how things are turning out, seeing as the AVoD and FAST boom has opened the possibility to continue to show our slightly older titles to audiences around the world. In general, I do see it as a volume-oriented market. Most AVoD and FAST platforms are still working on a revenue-share basis, which sometimes makes a financial prediction difficult. But we have noticed that some of them are changing to a flat fee model, and revenue shares also give the opportunity for high royalties. We feel like everything is still exciting and new, so different platforms are experimenting with how factual content fits into their offering. It’s fun to dive in here and to figure out the new way forward together.


What are your growth plans for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
Our mission is to grow but keep our boutique character with a carefully and well-selected catalogue. We will dive even deeper into the different genres – and aim to join projects at earlier production stages to help our producers find the right partners and fill the finance gaps. We’re bringing more projects in production or development to MipTV than ever before, so we’re really excited to work on these.

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