Belfast Telegraph

Big Mountain Productions, Newry: Switching on to fresh ideas

Philip McGovern is the owner and chief executive of TV company Big Mountain Productions in Newry which specialises in formatted reality TV

Philip McGovern is the owner and chief executive of TV company Big Mountain Productions in Newry which specialises in formatted reality TV

How did your career bring you to your present post at Big Mountain?

I worked in London, Belfast and Dublin in the BBC, RTE and independent sector as a senior producer/director in both factual and entertainment programming.

Who are the three people to whom you owe your present success?

My business partner and wife Jane Kelly, our team and all the people who have helped us along the way.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

Globally content creation is going through a golden age at the moment and there's also a gold rush on companies with intellectual property, so the biggest challenge for us is making the most of the business opportunities while also making the time to create new content.

Has it become easier to run a production company in Northern Ireland in recent years?

I think hits like Games of Thrones and our format Genealogy Roadshow' now in second series for PBS in the USA, are paving the way for more success. Based here we have to work local and think global.

Given that your work straddles the UK, including Northern Ireland, and the Republic, which is more receptive to new ideas in TV?

It's all about coming up with content that is breakthrough while managing exposure to risk - getting the balance is key. We work with all our buyers to answer their needs - which ultimately are dictated by the viewers and what they want to watch.

Is Northern Ireland's current dominance in film-making something that will last, or is it likely to run out of steam?

With Northern Ireland screen's strategic and developmental role, the recent tax breaks and the fantastic economic and cultural boost Games of Thrones has given Northern Ireland, we have the talent, the ideas and the experience to prosper and create and make content for the world market.

Can we learn anything about the Republic's experience of losing out on the position it once held as the go-to place for film production? Arguably it wasn't able to sustain the big success it had in the 1990s with films like Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan, etc.

The Republic is having a boom in TV drama with series like The Tudors, Vikings, Ripper Street being shot there. I feel north and south we can emulate the Israelis and Nordic countries - the more indigenous drama we can get on screen on the island of Ireland the better.

BBC have The Fall and RTE have had amazing success with Love/Hate, just sold to Netflix. All this success can only breed more success and help us reputationally worldwide.

Have you any ambitions to grow? Can you continue to generate formats for exporting overseas?

Absolutely - the TV format business is truly international and we have very ambitious plans to expand not just in TV formats but all content across platforms and means of delivery.

On the TV front we have just added C4 (with Addicts Symphony) and ITV 1 (Wild Atlantic Way with Christine Bleakley) as new clients along with PBS in the USA.

We work closely with BBC NI, UTV, RTE, TV3 and TG4 to serve our local audiences first and foremost but more often with a mind to what could work elsewhere.

Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings?

I'm more a fan of House of Cards.

Who Do You Think You Are? or Genealogy Roadshow?

Obviously Genealogy Roadshow.

Has your business been hit by the recession?

The growth in our international business has helped offset the worst of the recession.

Country or rock music?

We're keeping it country for now…

City or country?


Belfast Telegraph