Passion targets breadth as US demand grows

Set up in 2008, unscripted sales house Passion Distribution’s 5,000-6,000-hour catalogue focuses on four key genres: entertainment, factual-entertainment, docs, and lifestyle.

In 2012, Welsh-headquartered super-indie Tinopolis acquired Passion, at which point its catalogue grew vastly to include a roster of iconic unscripted brands.

Since then it has set about building a reputation as a globally trusted outfit, striking deals with a wealth of old and new players, and moving further into fully-funding commissions from its Tinopolis stablemates, which have ramped up of late.

The distributor’s catalogue now contains global legacy brands such as Robot Wars and An Idiot Abroad, along with a string of successful science and engineering documentaries and the ever-popular Drag Race, which has been catapulted recently into several new markets.

“Our strength is in the depth of our catalogue,” says director of sales and co-production Nick Tanner.

“We try to be distinctive and bold and offer ambitious programming that provides insight and is also a twist on the norm.”

According to Tanner, the recent coronavirus-induced lockdown has “strengthened our resolve to be different from the rest of the marketplace”, while Passion’s penchant for escapist content has served it well as broadcasters desperately look to fill their schedules with shows to take viewers’ minds off what’s happening outside.

“Not everything we have is geared around escapism, but we can certainly give a different perspective”, he adds. “This makes us a natural company to look to in the extraordinary times we are facing.”

The outfit’s longest-running and most-successful format is Fox reality series Paradise Hotel (Mentorn Media), which has continued to perform well under lockdown and recently had season premieres in Germany and Poland, proving “you can successfully launch a major franchise during difficult times,” according to Tanner.

Meanwhile, the latest tentpole entertainment show is Sky One’s Inner Circle/Motion Content/Phil McIntyre Television-produced original Dynamo Beyond Belief, described by Tanner as “the perfect escapist antidote”.

Passion has spent much of its time recently reaffirming its focus on single docs and series about science, engineering, and architecture.

Channel 5 original QE2: The World’s Most Luxurious Floating Hotel (Spun Gold) launched recently and has been performing well in numerous territories.

Others that have proved popular include Secrets of the Superfactories and Secret Wars Uncovered, from Pioneer Productions and CIC Media, respectively.

“There has been a requirement from pay-TV and terrestrial for quality science and engineering programming that works, and we’ve tried to respond to that, not just with male-skewing factual series,” adds Tanner.

Gameshows and quizzes are also shining for the distributor, precipitating Passion’s soon-to-launch slate of studio-based quiz-show formats, all of which are Covid-proof, high volume and can easily be made within social distancing guidelines. For example, Tinopolis label Firecracker developed a format called Quiz Box at the start of lockdown, which was shopped by Passion and picked up and commissioned by TRT Turkey.

For several years, Passion has been fully funding shows on a case-by-case basis, effectively acting as commissioner for its various Tinopolis stablemates, which includes Pioneer Productions, Question Time producer Mentorn and Firecracker.

The distributor takes a laser-like approach to commissioning, pooling resources from sales reps around the world to identify gaps or key anniversaries/events that may be attractive to global buyers.

Example include Pioneer’s one-off doc One Hour That Changed the World: The Moon Landing, while the forthcoming US election led to a fully-funded commission – #Trump: How Social Media Changed the Presidency.

The strategy is likely to become more useful to Passion as the months roll on, as broadcasters’ budgets are squeezed but appetite for this content grows.

“We are listening to the market all the time and are attuned to its needs,” explains Tanner. “You can then shape an idea into a brief and find the appropriate production partner within the Tinopolis group.

“We have upped the number of projects we’ve invested in recently so continue to be successful in finding stories where there is demand.”

Passion has seen a recent boom in US sales to the US and in the UK’s domestic second window, with Tanner noting burgeoning interest from the niche US SVoD players like Acorn TV and BritBox, both of which traditionally opted for drama and comedy but are branching into high-volume unscripted.

“There is a growing audience in the US that aren’t being served by the networks and cable so there are more routes to market for British content,” he adds.

Domestically, Tanner points to “renewed appetite” for second window content in the UK, partly in response to the Covid-19-induced shutdown, which has eaten away at the schedules.


Passion Distribution Ltd, No.1 Smiths Square, 77-85 Fulham Palace Road, London W6 8JA
Phone number:
+44 (0)207 981 9801