21 - 24 JUNE 2021 / EDITION N°32


Sunny Side of the Doc

History Inside/Out | Doc Talk with Elisabeth Hagstedt, Head of Content & Broadcast, Histoire TV, France

How is your network/channel stepping up to the challenge of historytelling to empower young audiences?

Elisabeth Hagstedt, Head of Content & Broadcast at Histoire TV tells us more…


Young audiences want the same from TV content as any other audience – entertainment, comprehension and inspiration -, but having grown up with a formidable content offer, on all kinds of platforms, they are hard to catch, it is very difficult to get their attention.

Young audiences are not our core target group, but increasing this public seems a substantial objective as we are convinced that knowing history is a prerequisite for understanding the present facing the future – their future!

The challenge is of course both the stories we choose to tell and how we tell them.
We know that patrimonial history needs to be spectacular and visually intriguing to get through. For a long time, historical fiction led the way, spreading in a romanced fashion the understanding of certain periods in a way that no documentary was able to do. Today, documentary series like “The real game of Thrones” and “Monumental Revelations” (Pernel) use fiction effects for factual storytelling with great success.

‘Monumental Revelations’ (4 x 60’) – © Pernel Media


War documentaries need to comprise a great deal of suspense. This does not mean that we diminish the demand for finesse and exactitude, but the narrative needs to be riveting to help adolescents step into the gloomy forties. Sometimes, history is best told by taking a detour: the series “Soundtrack” (Fremantle) explored main events of the later XXth century through music which was a fresh take that opened the door for new audiences. Humor and provocation can also be very useful: the cheeky way that the art historian Waldemar Januszczak (DRG) tackles the great and mighty is both savvy and captivating. The rule of the game being, of course, that the different treatments serve an authentic and pertinent story. Lack of intention always seem to shine through, however expert the makeup!

“Maybe our most important action is to present a complement to the fragmented news flow through documentaries that take a step back and analyze a situation in the light of history: our turbulent times need explanation.”

But the stories that interest the young audience most today are the ones that help them understand the very complex world we live in. We have progressively made history “younger”, increasing the content of our geopolitics – and contemporary history slots and getting closer and closer to present time. We want to present a complement to the fragmented news flow through documentaries that take a step back and analyze a situation in the light of history (even if this history is sometimes a very recent one). The interest that we have observed for these documentaries, and notably within a younger population, seem logic: our turbulent times need explanation.

However, to be noticed by the young audience in the first place, we need to present on their platforms. If VR products do not generate any money today, they are a great means to tell stories in a different way and the appetence for the young audience is huge. We also just started our first podcast edition and if our VOD presence needs some work, we have a very strong replay content. And we take every opportunity to present the “making of” of our films, with the producers, live for a student audience.

In brief – it is a lot of work! But also a lot of fun – and a challenge that continually obliges us to progress, change and ask ourselves new questions…


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