Masterclass Q&A with Joff Powell


This month’s Masterclass Q&A is with TV producer Joff Powell,
currently Commissioning Editor at BBC Worldwide.

How quickly do you aim to respond to an idea?

I aim to acknowledge receipt of an idea the day it comes in. In terms of response it varies; I have a very clear commissioning strategy so can identify straight away if the proposal isn’t right for my channels. Ideas that resonate with the tone and ambition of the channel, I will then develop with the production company before discussing it in one of our commissioning meetings.

What do you want less of?

Anything niche, people assume that because our channels are still in their infancy, that we will accommodate ideas with limited appeal. It’s actually the opposite, I need big. bold and universal concepts that speak to an international market.

What’s a definite no for you?

Lifestyle/features. I commission for channels in LatAm, South Africa, Poland, Nordic, Asia and Australia. I target male skewing factual entertainment which needs to be lively and action packed so anything too soft, within the home or garden is less likely to get traction for our origination strategy – we can acquire that content which does a job for the channel at less risk/expense so to spend a big budget on an origination, I need something really unique that we cannot get elsewhere.

Who has final sign-off?

Tracy Forsyth is Genre Director but it is very much a collaborative decision. There are only 3 of us in commissioning so we talk weekly to decide what to take forward. As we are an international portfolio, we liaise with our channel heads, distribution team and global schedulers to ensure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

What’s your riskiest commission and why?

Tribal Bootcamp from Rumpus Media. It’s an intelligent hybrid merging the genre of comedy and NHU content. The narrative entry point is looking at our obsession with aesthetic beauty but a fitness series just wouldn’t work for my channels. So we have taken it even further to challenge whether our high cost, tech addicted lifestyles can compete against mother nature herself in some of the most remote tribal communities around the world.

What would you like more of?

Original factual entertainment formats that can be ordered in high volume, that have the scale to be recommissioned for multiple series and have the international appeal for local format adaptations.

What’s your top pitching tip for producers?

Know the BBCW channels and territories, make yourself familiar with our output and don’t be derivative. If you can’t explain the format in the first paragraph, you’ve either over complicated it or it doesn’t work.

What do you wish you’d commissioned?

First dates on Channel 4. There is no other word than brilliant. It’s well made, has a theme that travels the world, is compelling, real and entertaining to watch.

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