Our House Media builds out its unscripted biz

With its first U.K. copro under its belt and a raft of recent greenlights, CEO Simon Lloyd talks expanding the Toronto prodco's international operations.

Simon Lloyd picNow in its fourth year, Toronto-based Our House Media (OHM) is looking to combine a growing roster of international partners, an expanding slate and the backing of its new parent company Kew Media to make further inroads with linear and digital players in U.S. and U.K. markets.

The unscripted producer, led by CEO Simon Lloyd (pictured right) and president Joe Houlihan (left), has secured a number of greenlights in recent months, most recently with a newly announced order from Bravo (U.S.) for OHM’s social-experiment series Welcome to America (6 x 60 minutes). The show is set in a small town in Kansas where the demographics have not changed in centuries – that is, until a diverse group of newcomers is introduced.

Other projects recently ordered by broadcasters on both sides of the border include a pair of shows for Reelz (U.S.), Broke & Famous and Famous Feuds (both 10 x 60 minutes), which premiere later this month, one-hour renovation special Building Off the Grid for DIY Network (U.S.), as well as new seasons of paranormal series Haunted Case Files for Blue Ant-owned channel Travel and Escape and a fourth season of Paranormal Survivor for T + E (Canada) and Destination America (U.S.). New episodes of Paranormal Survivor and Haunted Case Files, as well as Building Off the Grid, premiere later in 2018. 

The company also recently produced its first Canada/U.K. coproduction, Scariest Night of My Life (13 x 60 minutes) for Travel and Escape (Canada) and UKTV (U.K.), which premiered late last year and is coming to the end of its season-one run.

With the U.K. copro under its belt, OHM is now looking to deepen its focus on producing and financing series in Britain, Lloyd told Playback Daily.

Joe HoulihanAside from tapping additional sources of financing and pre-existing relationships (both Lloyd and Houlihan hail from Britain), Lloyd said the U.K. provides another opportunity for unscripted producers: more producer-friendly terms of trade for those looking to develop international formats. “The U.K. market, where there are favourable terms of trade, is a good place to incubate formats,” said Lloyd. Agreements in the U.K. allow indies to retain control of a share of IP rights for programming created for British broadcasters. Canada’s own terms of trade agreements changed in 2016, when the CRTC ruled to allow programming services to apply to remove requirements to adhere to a terms of trade agreement. “In the U.S. and Canada it’s harder to incubate a big format, in particular in the U.S. because the broadcaster typically wants to own all the rights,” added Lloyd.

The company has a number of shows in development with partners in Britain, and OHM plans to add local staff members before year’s end. “When we look back on our [initial] business plan, we targeted our fourth year for more of a substantial growth plan in the U.K.,” he said. Bringing U.K.-developed formats to the North American market is one of the company’s primary targets in 2018, he added.

As well, Our House is seeking to further its physical presence in the U.S. this year after it opened a development office in New York in 2016. Now the company is focused on establishing a footprint on the west coast of the U.S. as it looks to capture business from L.A.-based digital players such as Facebook, Netflix, Apple and Amazon, which have been ramping up their respective unscripted slates over the past couple of years.

Lloyd and Houlihan are currently on a business trip in L.A., where five out of eight meetings they have booked are with OTT players. “Two years ago that ratio was unthinkable,” said Lloyd. He added that while OHM has previously sold shows to Netflix (such as Back Road Bounty and Paranormal Survivor), setting up an L.A. office will give OHM the kind of boots-on-the-ground presence required to secure repeat business from the digital players. The prodco plans to open an L.A. office sometime in 2018.

Part of the reason OHM has built a U.S.-heavy slate is that the pitch-to-greenlight process has been quicker south of the border in recent years, given America’s larger pool of commissioners. Across the board though, Lloyd says the process has been slowing down. “The reality is that what may have in the past taken six months to go from pitch to greenlight now takes a year. The key is to adjust your business plans and production forecasts,” he said.

Following its acquisition by Kew Media, Lloyd said it remains business as usual at OHM, with the company operating in the same way as it did prior to the deal. “The beauty of being part of Kew is that we have very good support, particularly in things like accounting and legal, when we need it,” he said. “If you came into our office now, eight months into the Kew acquistions, you wouldn’t notice any difference at all. It’s very much still the Our House ethos.”

Lloyd and Houlihan were previously with Montreal-based Cineflix as CEO and EVP of programming, respectively.