Factual spotlight: Shaw Media, original content


As part of Playback sister publication realscreen’s annual Global Pitch Guide, released each fall, Playback over the next several days will feature a series of profiles with leading Canadian factual commissioners; they will include intel on what they’re looking for now, how to pitch, and what they pay.

NB: tomorrow’s installment will feature Shaw Media senior director of original lifestyle content Emily Morgan and a spotlight on Food Network Canada, Global, HGTV Canada and Slice Network .


Christine Shipton, VP of original content

TARGET DEMOS: Target demo for Shaw’s specialty audiences is 25-54 adults, and for Slice it’s 25-54 women. For broadcast channel Global it’s the 18-49 demo. “With Canadian programming we are looking at the whole 2+. We like to know how many Canadians across the board are watching us,” says Shipton.


CONTACT INFO: For lifestyle pitches, try Brynn Tschirhart at Brynn.Tschirhart@shawmedia.ca or Deirdre Finn at deirdre.fi nn@shawmedia.ca. For factual pitches, email Patricia DiGiovanni at patricia.digiovanni@shawmedia.ca.

BACKGROUND: Canada’s Shaw Media owns traditional broadcaster Global Television and 18 specialty networks including HGTV Canada, Food Network Canada and Slice.

Its Lifestyle Original Content Group has a centralized process that receives pitches for consideration across all its lifestyle channels. “Specific coordinators handle the submissions, but I also say we have a lot of production executives and a show can come through any door of any production executive or coordinator and it doesn’t hurt if you want to find your champion for your show,” says Shipton.

“Although there are specific criteria for each channel, we want to focus on what are the strongest show ideas and then how we can adapt them to work on a specific channel rather than going from a more niche channel focused strategy,” adds Emily Morgan, senior director of original lifestyle content.

Across the board, Shipton sums up what each of the Shaw nets are looking for: “Shows that draw big audiences. It sounds like a no brainer but we need to say that to producers often because it means that the ideas have to be broad enough for co-viewing.

“As we all know on the unscripted side, the amount of storytelling has become imperative. It isn’t ‘how-to,’ it’s not ‘watch me do,’ it’s ‘What is this story of the world that I’m in?’”

Its commissioners are usually on hand at the Realscreen Summit, Banff World Media Festival, and MIPCOM. Directors of original production Tanya Linton and Leslie Merklinger are also available to meet producers at Shaw’s Toronto offices.

WHAT MAKES A SIZZLE REEL HOT: “We accept pitches in all forms but if it is a character-driven pitch, seeing that person on tape and hopefully interacting with others in their world is always compelling,” says Morgan. “We’ve gotten a bit wary of the slick sizzle reel that is cut together to impress but the characters don’t hold up when you watch an actual scene with them.”

“If you’re presenting characters, you want to make sure you’ve shown some vulnerability,” adds Shipton. “Show them in their everyday life and then some quiet moments. It’ll show a range of the person.”