Global streamers immensely helped the growth of documentaries and allowed the genre to take risks, panelists at a discussion at the ongoing Sunny Side of the Doc market said on Tuesday.
“We should really be thankful to the platforms for bringing so much attention to our genre – it was completely under represented,” said Patrick Hoerl, MD of German producer and distributor Autentic. “The platforms no doubt showed us the potential of documentaries and also the diversity that’s possible within that genre. And they brought us eye-to-eye with all the fiction content in the world simply by representing documentaries along the same lines on the user interface, like every other piece of content.”
“[If] there was anybody helping the genre to emancipate over the last 10 years it was the streamers, we can’t forget about that, even if the money that they ready to invest in any kind of content from now on will rapidly decrease and more probably come into line with what other broadcasters tend to pay,” added Hoerl, who also serves as MD of pay TV channels Spiegel Geschichte and Spiegel TV Wissen and chair of the board of Documentary Campus.
“People are a bit more open to a variety of subjects that are a bit heavier as well, subjects that people didn’t really want to look at a couple of years ago have more of an audience now,” said Gerbrig Blanksma, senior VP, international sales and partnerships, Blue Ant International.
“Feature documentaries are making a comeback, certain subjects like the environment are slightly more accepted now than they were before,” added Loren Baxter, head of acquisitions at U.K. producer and distributor Off The Fence. “Streamers, in the way that they pick content, they do take risks. They blur genres together. We’re just telling stories in very different ways. We’re losing a little bit of that routine that we’ve all been subjected to for many, many years – it is changing, and people are taking more risks.”
On the negative side, Hoerl said that some of the documentary content being produced has been stretched to series length to suit the demands of the streaming platforms, but that was likely to change as streamers are currently seeing a dip in their economic development. Hoerl added that some streamers approach the larger distributors than the boutique ones because they don’t have the time to pick and choose individual titles while buying content.
“It’s a revolution in that editorial services are being pushed down to distributors,” said Hoerl. “The platforms don’t have enough people to make certain choices. Let’s say, a platform wants 50 wildlife shows, they actually expect us at the distribution company to make them editorially sensible suggestions on which 50 shows they should take.”
The panel was moderated by Paul Heaney, CEO of distributor, co-producer, co-developer and commissioner BossaNova, which co-produced the event.