sarah-tong-hat-trick Hat Trick International is the distribution arm of indie producer Hat Trick. With a catalogue of around 2000 hours, it is active across factual, comedy and drama – both finished programmes and formats. Some of its best-selling franchises include Outnumbered, Episodes, George Clark’s Amazing Spaces and Whose Line Is It Anyway?, versions of which have featured on both ABC and The CW networks in the US.

HTI’s long-standing director of sales Sarah Tong says the 22-year-old firm is fiercely protective of its status as “a genuinely independent distributor that focuses on quality over quantity”.

“Being independent means we are very nimble and quick to make decisions,” she adds. “And by focusing on quality, rather than growing the catalogue for the sake of it, we are able to maximise the value of every show over the long term.

“We have established a really strong reputation for nurturing back catalogue titles like BBC1’s Worst Week Of My Life, which we continue to sell as format and tape show more than 16 years after it launched.”

Around half of the HTI catalogue comes from producers within the Hat Trick family, namely Hat Trick Productions, Emporium, Livewire and Plum Pictures. Among enduring formats to have come via this in-house pipeline is Dinner Date, which has been produced in the UK, Germany, Australia and South Africa. Concurrently, HTI has established strong relationships with around 20 third-party indies, says Tong.

“There is a first look deal with Keo Films, producers of the River Cottage franchise, as well as title by title deals with the likes of Pulse Films (Channel 4’s Inside Missguided) and Strawberry Blond TV (C4’s Great Big Dig).” She adds that HTI is “constantly on the lookout for indies that want the kind of bespoke, independent service that HTI offers”. That’s why in 2018, the firm brought in a dedicated exec, Hana Zidek, to run third-party acquisitions.

HTI has not gone down the route of calling itself a mini-commissioner, says Tong, but it does offer “advances, presales and coproduction frameworks where necessary. It’s an important part of our role to get involved in productions early on to provide market insights.”

Historically, HTI focused on non-scripted content, but the acquisition of period mini-series Doctor Thorne in 2015 signalled a shift into scripted content too. Subsequently, this strategy has seen HTI pick up NRK Norway’s Magnus and James Nesbitt thriller The Secret. Now, says Tong, HTI is working with Nesbitt again on Bloodlands, a forthcoming BBC1 drama that has been made by Hat Trick and Jed Mercurio’s JV HTM.

As for the impact of Covid-19, Tong says HTI is managing it the same way as most – adhering to health protocols and conducting the majority of its business via digital platforms like Zoom. In terms of trends, Tong has seen increased demand for “proven scripted series with a good volume of episodes”.

“That has benefited shows like Episodes and Outnumbered,” she says. “I also think there is a taste for the kind of light, uplifting shows we offer because of the current climate.”


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