Granada renews pitch to Hollywood

Oct 21, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Only hours after agreeing to a $4 billion merger with Carlton Communications, key Granada PLC executives made their pitch to the Hollywood creative community on the value of doing joint productions with the soon-to-be-united British powerhouse.
“There are three major components we bring to this new business model we bring to the U.S. market,” said Simon Shaps, chief executive of Granada Content, at a breakfast in Los Angeles. “First and foremost our companies’ historical expertise in bringing hit program formats and talent to the U.S. market. Secondly, we’re able to offer some low-cost, efficient production and distribution opportunities from a variety of other international territories. And lastly, we’re going to be offering our network and studio partners in the U.S. dual licensing opportunities in terms of what can be derived in revenue from the U.S. and U.K. markets.”
Granada’s renewed interest in the U.S. market is fueled by the commercial broadcast network sales of hit U.K. reality series “I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here” (to ABC) and the Brit-based sitcom “The Grubbs” (to Fox). The more aggressive stance is in marked contrast to the past several years of retrenchment when it came to selling scripted series programming geared toward the six major U.S. broadcast networks. Several years ago, Granada mounted the expensive U.S. production of the British-based drama “Cold Feet,” which was canceled after just a few airings and left Granada considerably in the red.
“Certainly, we did learn a lot from that experience [on “Cold Feet”] in terms of doing all of the deficit financing on a project,” Mr. Shaps said. “We realized that it is too risky to do all of the deficit financing on these shores, and that’s why our new model has the [U.S.] network or studio partners carrying the [domestic] deficits in exchange for them to share in the dual-licensing revenue” in the United Kingdon and United States.
In the meantime, Granada Entertainment USA President Antony Root said Granada already has more than a half-dozen series projects in development at the commercial broadcast networks. During last spring’s development season, Granada took out five development projects; three went to pilot and “The Grubbs” (a co-production with 20th Century Fox) was the lone pilot picked up for fall 2002.
Potential Brit reality formats Granada could import to the United States include “Pop Stars: The Rivals,” which does a twist on the original format (which once aired on The WB) by having bands compete for a grand-prize recording deal, voted on by at-home viewers; “Royal Diary,” in which everyday people are asked to exactly mimic the daily activities of Britain’s royal family, such as going to school openings or charitable luncheons; the kung fu-based competition series “Fight School,” which currently airs on Sky Television in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Jackson also said a number of non-scripted reality projects are in development for the U.S. market, including “Reborn in the USA,” which would feature amateur rock bands being loaded on buses for local competition touring in small to midsize American towns. “The losing bands will be rooted out and literally left on the side of the road if they don’t make the cut” with the audience and voters, Mr. Jackson said.
Granada’s U.S. activities currently include scripted series and movies, comedy and long form, co-production, distribution and home video. Mr. Shaps also announced that the company has expanded its staff in the United States with formation of a new alternative programming division headed by Curt Northrup. The unit is developing game, reality and talk genres. In addition, he revealed that Granada is expanding its staff in the United Kingdom to create original content for the United States in all genres. Additionally, Mr. Shaps announced the creation of a $5 million production and development fund for U.S. programming activity.