In a massive sales roll-out, Fremantle has sold “Arctic Drift: A Year in the Ice,” about the biggest ever Arctic climate research expedition, in a total 170 territories globally.
The array of buyers take in Amazon Prime Video for Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Channel 4 in the U.K., PBS science series Nova in the U.S., and France Télévisions.
“Arctic Drift” follows a year of the unprecedented MOSAiC expedition, led by Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, which took in 300 international scientists on board the Polarstern, a 12,000 ton German ice-breaker.
As the Polarstern drove deep into the Arctic Circle, and then remained frozen in fragile drifting ice flow for almost a year, scientists were able to undertake vital research on an Arctic winter – a first – in the most hostile and unknown terrain on earth.
“Arctic Drift: A Year In the Ice” is set to broadcast in the U.K., U.S., and France, throughout October and November, coinciding with this year’s U.N. Climate Change Conference which starts on Nov. 1 in Glasgow.
Further Fremantle licensing pacts include pan-regional deals with National Geographic for Latin America, BBC Earth channels in Africa and Asia, OSN for the Middle East and North Africa and Spektrum, part of AMC Networks International Central and Northern Europe, for the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
Distribution deals feature further public broadcasters – such as Denmark’s DR, Finland’s YLE (Finland) and Norway’s NRK (Norway) in Scandinavia– and multiple split windows arrangements.
AMC-owned channel Odisea has acquired rights in Spain and in Italy RAI 4 has picked up premiere rights.
Said Jens Richter, Fremantle CEO, international: “For public broadcasters, the film is great because we learn a lot, and for commercial broadcasters as well, plus it’s beautiful and there’s adventure. For any SVOD players that wants to sell subscriptions, it’s great because it’s premium, high budget, and very unique.”
In Eastern Europe, LTV (Latvia), LRT (Lithuania), Canal Plus (Poland) and RTV Slovenija and Czech TV have acquired rights, as have VRT Belgium, KBS Korea, Gain in Turkey and Cosmote TV in Greece. The documentary was originally produced for German broadcaster ARD.
“Arctic Drift: a Year In the Ice” marks a collaboration between two Fremantle companies: Historic German production company UFA Show & Factual and London-based Wild Blue Media. After 385 filming days at the North Pole, the film was unveiled in 2020 as Fremantle’s first high-end factual original.
Why such fulsome sales? “Arctic Drift: a Year In the Ice’ is about the biggest global topic there is: Climate change,” said Richter. There’s also a sense of imperative urgency to the subject which “keeps you going, justifies a documentary which took three years to make,” he added.
The AWI expedition took 10 years to prepare and cost $150 million. Never before had 300 scientists from all over the world assembled on one boat and gone to the North Pole, spending the whole winter there in total darkness.
The doc-feature was custom-made for major market clients, fore-fronting connections with British and French expedition members for Channel 4 and France Télévisions respectively, for instance.
It also has a keen sense of adventure, Richter argued. “When we spoke three years ago to the Alfred Wegener Institute, it compared this expedition to a mission to Mars: We know pretty much the same about the North Pole and Mars and to get there and stay there is a huge undertaking. It’s also highly dangerous. So its first priority was to get everybody home safe, and then think about the science.”
That science means that the series – and it seems essential for climate change series’ success – is not doom and gloom. MOSAiC allowed scientists to capture previously unattainable data in the sea ice, ocean and atmosphere that is desperately needed to transform understanding of climate change and how the Arctic, its epicenter, regulates temperatures and climate across the globe.
“Besides the beauty of the Arctic night, the danger, freezing temperatures and ice bears, the idea was also to learn and to transport some hope,” Richter said.
He added: “When we hear the scientists speak, you hear their excitement, the focus, the determination. They really want to make a change and have an impact. So there’s a lot of hope in this show as well.”