Factual producers in the West of England gathered at Bristol’s Watershed in November to hear from Poppy Dixon, Sky’s director of documentaries, and factual commissioning editor Hayley Reynolds.
In a wide-ranging discussion, hosted by True to Nature founder Wendy Darke, the duo talked about creating “content worth paying for”, with Reynolds commenting that the “fight for audiences has never been bigger”.
Dixon was delighted at the first 18 months of Sky Documentaries, particularly its Factual Channel win at the recent Broadcast Digital Awards.
The pair talked through the four pillars of Sky Documentaries, which include “contemporary history” with an intimate emotional narrative and “stranger than fiction”, which looks for extraordinary individuals with amazing stories to tell.
Showing a clip from Positive, a documentary for World Aids Day on 1 December, Dixon highlighted the “ultimately uplifting” tone of a film that covered many heartbreaking tragedies in Britain’s 40-year battle with HIV.
For Sky Nature, the team is looking for three to four original natural history commissions a year, but Reynolds warned they were “picky and ambitious”. Reynolds cited the importance of revelatory experiences for viewers as well as innovation.
The Sky execs also showed a preview clip of a new series made by True to Nature, Shark with Steve Backshall.
Turning to Sky Crime, Dixon noted that “true crime is having a moment – which has been ongoing now for a couple of years – and we’re excited to work with production companies to figure out what’s next for true crime, and how the genre can evolve.”
She revealed that Sky Crime was looking for four to six premium series, which are emotionally driven, about ordinary people who are victims of crime and, ideally, would be UK-focused.