MipDoc: Discovery International Carves Out Niche, Jerry Springer Talks ‘Tabloid’

In the cutthroat world of proliferating nonfiction channels, Discovery International is upping the ante by segmenting its content into yet another thin slice — a stylish suspense offshoot called ID X, with Poland as the springboard trial territory. The service launched there this past week and is primed for Russia and several other territories in the so-called CEEMEA, which stands for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

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“We felt that there’s an audience, mostly female, that really responds to glossy, well-told true-life stories. Essentially, we’re packaging stories with longer arcs, whodunits in fact, which we think will make the channel a passion brand,” said Discovery’s Paul Welling during a QA session Sunday morning during the two-day MipDoc market.

The service is on schedule to roll out across a dozen territories in the next month and is being positioned somewhere between the more science-based, male-targeted Investigation Discovery channel and TLC, which similarly skews female but targets a younger demo than the newcomer ID X brand.

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The senior VP for the CEEMEA region, Welling also intimated that scripted drama could well be in the future for the brand, though for the moment most all of the crime stories are based on actual American cases and use reconstructions for dramatic effect. Among the strands promos for the audience of documentary producers and executives in Cannes were series Southern Fried Homicide and RedRum, which is murder spelled backward, and takes the viewers backward in time from the crime itself to the reasons for it.

Welling did suggest that the channel would be looking both to localize the brand by bringing on national talent in the various territories of launch and by reaching out to include more internationally known stories. He cited the Oscar Pistorius scandal as a perfect example, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Discovery was “almost certainly at work” back in the States to put together a show on that sensational South African trial.

Joining the Discovery exec onstage during the half-hour session was talk show vet Jerry Springer, who is fronting a show for the new channel called, appropriately enough, Tabloid. Ten episodes have already been shot and another round has been ordered.

“None of us are above it,” Springer told the audience more than once and in different contexts, in describing what he called the universal interest in “what’s going on in the cave or the neighborhood next door.” The only thing that’s changed about storytelling, he went on, is that the neighborhood is now global.

The gabber said he had gotten the call about the Tabloid offer a year ago and it took “just 30 seconds” to decide to do it. “I did it,” he told THR, “because it sounded fun and interesting, not for the money.”

As for his 23-year-old talk show, Springer stressed that it was, and is intended to be, “a circus. That’s all it is. And no, I don’t watch my show: I have some taste.”

On Tabloid, he quipped, “the people definitely look better.”