‘This is not a crime story, so it’s something different to the norm and will appeal to a wider audience’

Distributor Endemol Shine International
Producer Fifty Fathoms
Length 4 x 60 minutes
Broadcaster Channel 4 (UK)

When Adult Material was commissioned by Channel 4, the British broadcaster said it would be a “taboo-busting” drama investigating the ways that sex, power and consent are connected.

No wonder. The four-part drama, distributed by Endemol Shine International (ESI), tells the story of porn-industry veteran Jolene Dollar (Hayley Squires) and explores her relationship with a younger woman, Amy (Siena Kelly), who enters the industry aged 19.

ESI chief executive Cathy Payne says the subject matter is “darker and edgier” than how pornography has previously been portrayed in a television drama, with human stories that provide insight into the controversial industry.

“A lot of buyers are interested to see Adult Material because it’s something very different,” she says. “It’s something that can have real relevance. People can relate to Jolene – despite her being from an industry that they’re probably not associated with.”

Payne says this will help the drama stand out in the international scripted space “because it is on a subject that people don’t really see on mainstream TV”.

“It’s a little different to what we are usually out on the market with, as it’s a more contemporary story,” she adds. “It’s not a crime narrative, so it’s something completely different to the norm and will appeal to a wider audience. Plus, it’s C4 drama, and they’re always noisy and interesting.”

The drama is produced by Fifty Fathoms and will star Squires (Collateral; Call The Midwife) in the lead role. The part was initially cast with Sheridan Smith, but Payne thinks the change in actor has the potential to enhance its status.

“Obviously, Sheridan’s an amazing, talented actor, and a very known quantity in the UK, but she’s not as well known outside Britain as Hayley, who’s an interesting actor and delivers a very strong performance,” she notes.

Adult Material

Payne plays down concerns that the drama’s subject matter might inhibit its distribution globally. “It deals with a subject that for some broadcasters will be too risqué, but there’s a lot of premium pay and streaming services that don’t have that censorship,” she says.

“It may have been very different if we were taking it out to market even five years ago, but there are plenty of options today.”

As such, ESI will be targeting a variety of platforms, with Payne suggesting it could work comfortably in both linear and non-linear environments.

She expects interest from pay-TV and subscription services: “All the main players have been following it and are looking forward to viewing the show. It will be strong with broadcasters that have similar mindsets to C4.”

Though some buyers seek a minimum of six episodes for their event-drama slots and Adult Material is only four, ESI is confident the production values and quality that Fifty Fathoms, writer Lucy Kirkwood and the cast have brought to the show will incentivise potential purchasers.

“It’s definitely at the super-domestic level of budget and it’s not inexpensive drama at four episodes,” says Payne. “There have been many short runs in the UK over recent years that have found an audience, so this will find a home too.”

She adds that no buyers have been put off by the length and those that might be are not from the usual set of acquiring broadcasters.

“There are some local broadcasters that don’t buy four hours, but they’re not the people who would normally buy British drama,” she says.