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Reframing the documentary: how Amazon and Netflix are changing factual television

All or Nothing: A Season with the Arizona Cardinals (Credit: Amazon Prime)

In February of this year, Netflix won its first Oscar and its first Bafta. Surprisingly, the awards were not for any of its high-profile drama series, but for two documentaries. The Academy Award went to The White Helmets, a film about a group of Syria Civil Defence volunteer rescue workers. The Bafta winner was 13th, Ava DuVernay’s film about race in the US criminal justice system.

Amazon's online drive for audiences

The Grand Tour (Credit: Amazon)

It’s rare for Yorkshire town Whitby to make the national press – unless, of course, there’s been a flood – but wherever Jeremy Clarkson goes, the world follows. Amazon’s impending launch of The Grand Tour is one of the most globally anticipated series of all time.

Jay Marine, vice-president of Amazon Prime Video Europe, says: “It is a huge TV moment, not only for us but for UK TV generally.”

The horn of plenty: TV in a hyperconnected world

The panel (L-R): Hugh Dennis, Sue Unerman, Jim Ryan, Simon Pitts and Ben McOwen Wilson  panel (L-R): Hugh Dennis, Sue Unerman, Jim Ryan, Simon Pitts and Ben McOwen Wilson (Credit: Paul Hampartsoumian)

Comedian Hugh Dennis aired the thoughts of many trying to navigate the new television landscape when he introduced this session. In a video diary shown to conference delegates, he was seen stuck inside a room for a month. His task was to watch all the content available to modern audiences. 

“Watching telly used to be so easy,” he complained. “Four channels, maybe five – everyone watched the same thing in the same place at the same time, unless your family was at the cutting edge of technology and had a VCR.” 

Edinburgh TV Festival Day One: The Grand Tour, Vice and new BBC commissions

Shane Smith delivering the 2016 MacTaggart lecture (Credit: RTS)

Although the much-publicised ‘steak-gate’ incident led to the end of the Clarkson, Hammond and May era of the show, the end had been looming, Wilman suggested.

“We were collapsing under the weight of the work we were doing,” he added.

Appearing at the festival to promote the team’s new Amazon Prime show The Grand Tour, Wilman would not be drawn on how much the company had paid for the series. “It’s a good whack,” he conceded, but denied that it was as much as the rumoured £4 million per episode.

Sky 'not worried' about competition from Netflix and Amazon says Gary Davey

Sky, Sky Arts, television, Europe, Damian Lewis, Gary Davey, Pat Younge, Sugar Films, The Hospital Club,

Speaking at an RTS Early Evening Event Davey said that despite the proliferation of ways of watching content linear channels would continue to survive. 

“Channels will always be around. | cannot see a future where they don’t exist,” said Davey, a pay TV veteran who was part of the team that helped establish the pioneering satellite broadcaster in the early 1990s.  

“There is a revolution going on but it’s happening a lot slower than people think…

Amazon commissions original UK drama from makers of Ripper Street

Ripper Street

The Collection is an eight-part series from Lookout Point, the Production Company behind popular shows such as Ripper Street and upcoming BBC period drama War and Peace.

The drama is being created, written, and executive produced by Ugly Betty showrunner Oliver Goldstick, whose work also includes the popular American TV show, Pretty Little Liars. Joining Goldstick are Emmy Award-winning director Dearbhla Walsh (The Tudors) and BAFTA-winning producer Selwyn Roberts (Parade’s End).