Luke O’Neill joins TV production company Kite for science TV venture – The Irish Times

Television production company Kite Entertainment has teamed up with Prof. Luke O’Neill to develop science-themed shows aimed at a global audience.

Kite’77, a partnership between the independent Dublin-based company and academic, writer and broadcaster, will be headed by former BBC entertainment editor Suzanne McManus.

The venture, which received funding from Enterprise Ireland, intends to focus on both Prof O’Neill’s own written works and the development of original science TV 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 prompted us to ask him if he might be open to a partnership that would focus on bringing science programming to a broad global television audience.

“Given that science knows no bounds, our ambitions for Kite’77 will be focused on securing international commissions, with streamers as a primary target.”

“A lot of science TV shows talk down to people, but Attenborough and Sagan never talked down”

Prof O’Neill said that as a teenager he was inspired by television programs made by David Attenborough and the late astronomer Carl Sagan, and that they encouraged him to pursue his interest in science.

“A lot of science TV shows talk down to people, but Attenborough and Sagan never talked down to people,” he said, adding that there was also room for more science TV to “be entertaining” through formats such as quizzes.

Name of household

A regular media contributor who became a household name during the Covid-19 crisis, Prof O’Neill said the “timing was perfect” for Kite’77 – the name a reference to a Talking Heads album – to take advantage of the boosted from the pandemic interest in science.

“My overall dream is to spread as much science as possible to as many young people as possible,” he said.

The Professor of Biochemistry in the School of Biochemistry and Immunology at the Trinity Institute of Biomedical Sciences at Trinity College Dublin is an expert on innate immunity and inflammation. He co-founded 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, Prof O’Neill was initially 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 potential for an adaptation in his titles Humanology: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Amazing Existence and Never Mind the B#ll*cks, Here’s the Science.

Ms McManus, project manager for Kite’77, previously worked as editor-in-chief at BBC Three, the predecessor of BBC Choice, and then as the BBC’s editor-in-chief in entertainment, executive producing shows such as Have I Got News for You, The Graham Norton Show, Mock the Week, QI and Comic Relief. From Dublin, she has a long-term “creative relationship” with Mr Smith and was struck by Prof O’Neill’s charisma during an appearance on the Late Late Show.

“He just has a wonderful natural authority and is so attractive,” she said.

Although Kite’77 is at a “very early stage”, its prospects should be helped by the recent growth in the number of channels and platforms – including ITV-controlled BritBox and BBC Studios-owned Channel Dave – commissioning factual entertainment.

“There are so many more homes for great content now,” Ms McManus said.

Mr Smith, an experienced TV producer who also co-wrote Dustin, Turkey’s 2008 Eurovision entry Irelande Douze Pointe, joked that his ambitions for Kite’77 might help him “finally move on ‘ from failing science in his Inter Cert in 1989.

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