If you are not working for a public broadcaster with a remit to produce it, blue-chip wildlife can be a bit of hard sell for a commissioning editor. The lead time is long, often two or three years for one six-part series, and the cost is enormous. But Netflix has deep pockets and a long-term strategy, so perhaps it shouldn’t have been a big surprise when it unveiled Our Planet last April. The eight-part was made by Silverback Films, the indie set up in 2012 by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, who produced the BBC’s David Attenborough-fronted Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Blue Planet. The pair will film WWF’s projects in 4K and deliver the results in 2019. The U.S. streamer’s famous metric and algorithms have spoken with the VP of Netflix original documentaries Lisa Nishimura pointing to the numbers achieved by BBC’s Planet on Netflix as a reason for the commission. The project was announced during the last MIPTV in April and came just as Phil Craig, the new Chief Creative Officer at Discovery Networks International (DNI) was revealing Life of Dogs, a 5 x 60 series from Plimsoil Productions. It’s DNI’s first original blue-chip natural history commission. Discovery Channel in the U.S. also revealed that it is keen to take the network back to its core values. “It’s about putting a stake in the ground,” Craig said. “I want to establish a unit that cab rival BBC Bristol. I want us to be a world-class provider – not just an expensive natural history, but also other kinds of natural history. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. To me, Discovery without animal isn’t really Discovery.” The broadcaster isn’t short of cash either, as its aggressive mergers and acquisitions strategy has shown in recent years. But veteran wildlife producer Phil Fairclough, CEO of Earth Touch USA, says blue-chip is a brave move.
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