TV production company Kite Entertainment has teamed up with Professor Luke O’Neill to develop science-themed shows for global audiences.
Kite’77, a partnership between the Dublin-based independent company and scientist, writer and broadcaster, will be led by former BBC Entertainment editor Suzanne McManus.
The venture, which has received funding from Enterprise Ireland, intends to focus on both Professor O’Neill’s own written work and the development of original science television formats.
Kite Managing Director Darren Smith said: “Covid has undoubtedly given everyone a very real appetite for all things science. Luke’s emergence as such a strong presence during the pandemic led us to ask him if he might be up for a partnership that would focus on bringing science programming to large global TV audiences.
“As science knows no borders, our ambitions for Kite’77 will be focused on earning international commissions, with streamers as our primary target.”
“A lot of science TV shows put people down, but Attenborough and Sagan never belittled”
Prof O’Neill said he was inspired as a teenager by the TV programs of David Attenborough and the late astronomer Carl Sagan and they encouraged him to pursue his interest in science.
“A lot of science TV shows talk to people, but Attenborough and Sagan never talked to people,” he said, adding that there was also room for more science TV “to happen. entertain” through formats such as quiz shows.
A regular media contributor who has become a household name during the Covid-19 crisis, Prof O’Neill said the “timing is perfect” for Kite’77 – the name refers to a Talking Heads album – to capitalize on the increased interest in science due to the pandemic.
“My overall dream is to get as much science out to as many young people as possible,” he said.
The Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin is an expert in innate immunity and inflammation. He is the co-founder of Sitryx, which aims to develop new drugs for inflammatory diseases, while another company he co-founded, Inflazome, was acquired by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche in 2020.
The author of several popular science books, Professor O’Neill was first approached by Kite – the creator of Ireland’s Fittest Family for RTÉ One and Gogglebox Ireland for Virgin Media One, among other productions – after Mr Smith saw adaptive potential in its titles Humanology: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Incredible Existence and Nevermind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science.
Ms McManus, project manager for Kite’77, was previously editor-in-chief of BBC Three’s predecessor, BBC Choice, then BBC entertainment editor, producing shows such as Have I Got News for You, The Graham Norton Show, Mock the Week, QI and Comic Relief. From Dublin, she had a long-term ‘creative connection’ with Mr Smith and was struck by Professor O’Neill’s charisma during an appearance on the Late Late Show.
“He just has wonderful natural authority and is so engaging,” she said.
While Kite’77 is in its “very early stages”, its prospects are set to be boosted by recent growth in the number of channels and platforms – including ITV-controlled BritBox and BBC Studios-owned Dave’s Channel – commanding entertainment factual.
“There are so many more homes now for great content,” Ms. McManus said.
Mr Smith, an experienced television creator who also co-wrote Dustin the Turkey’s Eurovision 2008 entry Ireland’s Douze Pointe, joked that his ambitions for Kite’77 could help him “finally pass” from scientific failure in his Inter Cert in 1989.