June 21, 2024

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EXCLUSIVE: Paramount’s Channel 5 is headed to South Africa in search of hippos and crocodiles.

The UK terrestrial network has ordered a pair of series from Sky Studios-owned factual specialist True to Nature presented by British naturalist Steve Backshall. Croc Watch and Hippo Watch will both run to two hour-long episodes, and Fremantle has picked up international sales rights.

This marks one of the most ambitious natural history bets for Channel 5. Across the two series, the programs will journey into the heart of South Africa to access the lives of crocodiles and hippos, revealing remarkable secrets and showcasing the beauty of their natural habitats.

Backshall, whose True to Nature-produced series Whale with Steve Backshall premiered on Sky Nature in the UK earlier this month, will reveal the mysteries of their survival by exploring their daily habits, hunting techniques and parenting instincts, and the intricate dynamics of the wild that enable them to thrive.

“Crocodiles and hippos are truly fascinating creatures with formidable reputations. Steve Backshall is the perfect person to dive deep into their worlds and unravel the secrets of these incredible animals,” said Denise Seneviratne, Commissioning Editor, Unscripted, Channel 5 and Paramount+. “We are delighted to be working with True To Nature to bring these remarkable series to Channel 5.”

Backshall added: “I can’t wait to get up close and personal with these extraordinary animals. Exploring the natural habitat of crocodiles and hippos is a dream come true for any wildlife enthusiast, and I am beyond excited to learn more about these captivating creatures. Having previously worked with Channel 5 for The Secret Life of Badgers, I can confidently say that crocodiles and hippos might be a tad more adventurous.”

Seneviratne commissioned both series. True to Nature founder Wendy Darke is the executive producer. “Steve and the True To Nature team have the experience to get closer to these iconic animals that ever before to create an unmissable watch for Channel 5 viewers,” said Darke, the former chief of the BBC Natural History Unit (now known as BBC Studios Natural History Unit).

In a recent interview with Deadline, Darke said Bristol-based True to Nature’s program making style was “premium content that meets an audience expectations with a contemporary edge with terms of environmentalism.” The company is known for its blue-chip natural history specialism, with its slate including Sky and Netflix’s first ever co-production, the Tom Hardy-narrated Predators, and Predators in Action (working title), a co-pro for ITV and Disney’s National Geographic International.

Last month, we revealed Sky’s series Whale with Steve Backshall had been pre-sold to France’s Ushuaia and the ABC in Australia. Fremantle has distribution rights to that show, and also sells its predecessor series, Shark with Steve Backshall, in certain territories.

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