Belfast Telegraph

Newry's Big Mountain company celebrating American TV deal

BY MARGARET CANNING

A Newry production company is celebrating after its family history roadshow series began transmission on American TV.

Genealogy Roadshow, a series in which people can have their family's claims to fame – and infamy – verified by experts, was developed by Big Mountain Pictures.

The company sold the format to US public service broadcaster PBS to be remade in the States, with the first episode airing last night.

RTE has broadcast the show to Irish audiences and a second RTE series is in the pipeline.

Philip McGovern, who runs Big Mountain with his wife Jane Kelly (right), said: "We take everybody's story and reveal it live on set. It's quite emotional and makes great TV.

"We'll look at what your granny used to say so that we can tell someone, 'guess what – granny was right' – while also making it relatable to a wider audience."

The business specialises in developing formatted TV shows which can be developed around the world, while retaining the rights to the programmes. Last year it won funding of nearly £90,000 from Northern Ireland towards a total investment of around £480,000.

Mr McGovern said PBS had been airing Antiques Roadshow for 16 years, demonstrating its commitment to the TV shows it buys.

And he said the success of the show with RTE audiences meant PBS went straight to transmission, without going through the pilot process to test its potential popularity. "It's the first Irish show to go straight to transmission, so that's a big deal."

He would not divulge how much the company had made from the US deal, but said it would be awarded 5% of the overall budget, making it "quite substantial".

A recent episode for their second series for RTE was filmed at St Columb's in Derry.

The company has a core team of 10 but has employed up to 100 freelance crew on its productions around Ireland.

Mr McGovern and his wife– a former pupil of St Dominic's in Belfast – have worked in RTE and BBC. Their company has also made Craft Master for RTE and country music show An Luir-Opry, which is currently being shown on BBC NI.

Big Mountain has also reached a deal with FreemantleMedia, which distributes shows such as the X-Factor in international markets. FreemantleMedia will showcase the format at entertainment trade show MIPCOM in Cannes in October.

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