Sony Signs Davies to Development Deal

Jan 2, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Sony Pictures Television has signed reality series producer Michael Davies and his production company Embassy Row to a three-year overall deal to develop unscripted and scripted series.

Mr. Davies is an executive producer on Buena Vista’s syndicated “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” ABC’s “Wife Swap” and Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclasts.” A former executive with The Walt Disney Co., he also produced The WB’s short-lived game show “Studio 7” and the 1990s late-night syndicated talk strip “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show.”

“We believe the reality business is here to stay, and Michael has proven that he can create shows that are both unique and compelling,” Zack Van Amburg, co-president of programming and production for Sony Pictures Television, said in a statement.

As part of the deal with Sony, Mr. Davies will remain executive producer on “Wife Swap” (which he co-produces with RDF Media) and keep his first-look deal with ABC for prime-time programming. He will also continue to work on “Millionaire.”

“The heart of my business is games,” Mr. Davies said, “but the areas I’m working very hard to grow are comedy, documentary for both film and television, and also digital and branded entertainment.”

Sony is no stranger to Mr. Davies’ core business. Besides producing the two top game shows in syndication, “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!,” Sony owns GSN, a natural place for Mr. Davies to develop game shows.

Aside from Sony’s international presence, the company’s ability to distribute content also attracted him to the deal, Mr. Davies said.

“I’m mainly concerned with being a producer,” he said. “If you’ve made that decision, at that point you want to make a deal with a studio.”

Mr. Davies formed New York-based Embassy Row in May along with film and TV producer Chris Moore (“Project Greenlight”) and former Davie-Brown Entertainment President Tera Hanks. Embassy Row, which also announced a Comedy Central game show project with former “Jeopardy!” contestant Ken Jennings, absorbed Mr. Davies’ previous production company, Diplomatic.

Late last year Mr. Moore and Ms. Hanks left Embassy Row, and Mr. Davies shut down the company’s Los Angeles office and consolidated his operations in New York. The project with Mr. Jennings is no longer at Comedy Central, but Mr. Davies said he is still working on developing the series. Though Sony gave no details on the finances of its deal with Embassy Row, Mr. Davies said his agreement with Sony isn’t about guaranteeing him a sizable salary.

“I wanted a deal that would guarantee investment in Embassy Row, and invest in our ability to produce more,” he said. “I feel I can sell a lot of shows, but I need help to produce a lot of shows.”