Travel Channel Strategic Opportunities - May 2009


On the subject of travel, Travel Channel IS the category.  Other networks may have it as a subcategory, or as a component of a series, but here, it's the core of most everything they do.  No other network directly competes with them, but rather, nibbles around the edges of some of their genre and certainly audience.


The bulk of the Travel Channel schedule is not only original programming, it is independently produced original programming!  They still take pitches from indies all the time. They will also take meetings at markets, if approached properly by email ahead of time.  Travel Channel is actively pursuing co-pros and will be taking programs to market for that purpose.  If the concept calls for talent, the network strongly encourages that it be attached at the time of the initial pitch. 


They do acquire. A better chance here than on most networks, thanks to the genre.  They're always looking for destination-based programming.  It's  their unique take on it that's tough to find. Key person for submissions is .


Best place is to start with a character...a credible, passionate authority who is hopefully a bit quirky.

Then head to their "Producing for Travel" portion of the website, here:

In their latest RFP, here's how to submit (in this case, for a particular need...more in a bit):

Submit via:

-- No more than 2 pages, please
-- Include examples of episode topics
-- Explain innovative new media ideas
-- If pitching a hosted program, please include talent ideas
-- Talent tape/demos encouraged
-- Please include indication of cost


Contact:  Anna Garwood
Program Development Manager
The Travel Channel

But there's another way to sneak in the doors:  TRAVEL CHANNEL ACADEMY.   Here's what they say:  Now, is your chance to get involved with Travel Channel - to learn the art and science of digital filmmaking, and open up a possibility to share your stories on our television, online and mobile platforms. We'll teach you how to produce your videos in just 4 days.

Introducing Travel Channel Academy - the only professional-grade, travel-focused digital filmmaking boot camp on the planet.

Here's the link for that:

As always, a pilot/presentation tape is necessary for talent or for a complicated concept. Not so for most ideas.    But as you can see from the schedule, their most successful programs seem to be talent-based: BOURDAIN, ZIMMERN, MARK AND OLLY (the TRIBAL guys), DECARLO, RATZENBERGER; SAMANTHA BROWN, still hanging in there.  IAN WRIGHT got off to the wrong start...might that mean hard times for another of their Brit hosts, Lawrence Beldon-Smythe and Anthony Andrew? -...anyway, with talent in a pitch, a video of the presenter is mandatory.

However, if a program is not a commission, good luck making the deficit back around the world with that host in it.  Unhosted travel is what the global market looks for, unless it's ANTHONY BOURDAIN or JAMIE OLIVER. (Full Disclosure:  Sister company CABLEready distributes A COOK'S TOUR, another ANTHONY BOURDAIN series, internationally.)


In one short period this spring, two major announcements hit the network.  First, Cox announces that Goldman Sachs has been retained to evaluate the assets of the network.  While there's no public confirmation in the press, speculation is that it's the first step in seeking a buyer or a partner for the network.  Second, long time GM Pat Younge announces he's returning to the UK and the BBC. 

They affirmed it at RealScreen Summit:  Recent updates tell us these 3 Key Points for what travel takes into consideration when evaluating any idea:

-    Lust for life
-    Immersion and exploration
-    Credible authorship

Lately, an accompanying internet component is what is not only necessary, it is deemed MANDATORY!  Take a look at their website:  you almost have to hunt for the TV part.


Programs usually need a host...make sure they have "a lust for life" and are "credible and IMPASSIONED INSIDERS" (their emphasis).  Programs should be "immersive" (literally defined as "a 3D image that seems to surround the viewer").   "What is the driving force?  What is the story arc?  What is the holy shit factor?"  BTW, good direction for any idea!

We break down the various strands at Travel Channel to tell you exactly what themes and topics do work...that list will grow longer as time goes on.

Stay away from stories that are too personal(translation: vacation videos); overly formatted series; gimmicks;  competition programs; serialized formats and programs;  talent that's mere talent ("all hair and teeth") and not credible; docusoaps and pure reality shows.

What Travel does want is "sticky" take-away information; authentic travel experiences;  programs that transport the viewer;  visually appealing images; self-contained episodes (see: no serials); multi-platform opportunities (see: internet); articulate, knowledgeable talent.  And getting younger men is a part of all of this. They're now advertising an HD feed, so it wouldn't hurt to consider what makes a good HD travel show either.

And don't forget the website as a jumping off point for plays to a younger audience, and has a retail connection (tools, trips, etc.).  Travel needs your mind on that as you submit program ideas.

Here they give us names to give you:

Development: 240-662-6501

Acquisitions: 240-662-2115

ALSO: Download Travel's Spring 2009 Commissioning Brief.


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