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Shed’s Spread to U.S. Market

May 3, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Shed Media U.S. President Nick Emmerson’s daily life isn’t filled with anywhere near as much drama as the divas’ lives on his Bravo hit “Real Housewives of New York City.”
That’s said, Mr. Emmerson’s U.S. profile has risen dramatically in recent months.
Previously an executive vice president of “Supernanny” producer Ricochet Television, Mr. Emmerson in February was elevated to president of the newly created Shed Media U.S. The umbrella company encompasses all the various brands of British production company Shed Media, known for its factual programs and for scripted soaps such as “Footballers Wives.”
In addition to Ricochet, Mr. Emmerson now oversees Wall to Wall (the company behind the Oscar-winning documentary “Man on Wire”), Twenty Twenty, Shed Productions and Outright Distribution. He has expanded his team by promoting Jennifer O’Connell to executive VP and hiring Burrad Marsh to serve as VP of scripted development.
Other new additions include unscripted director Tom Huffman, development producer Deborah Ridpath and development associate producers Ross Greenberg and Brian Robles.
Shed Media U.S. is becoming an increasingly important component of Shed Media’s overall strategy. The company’s most recent financial statements attributed 30% of profits to the Stateside branch.
Mr. Emmerson’s empire produced 64 hours of television last year, with 80 hours in the works for 2009. Starting with ABC’s “Supernanny” (just greenlit for a sixth season), Shed has grown to include a wide mix of series, including docusoaps (“Real Housewives”), observational reality (“It’s Me or the Dog”) and informational (“World’s Strictest Parents”).
Late this year, look for NBC to roll out Shed’s “Who Do You Think You Are?,” a collaboration with producer Lisa Kudrow that features celebrities tracing their roots. And Bravo just ordered the Shed-produced pilot “Jackie’s Gym Takeover,” featuring reality star Jackie Warner.
Mr. Emmerson recently took a few minutes to discuss Shed’s growing profile and the current state of the U.S. reality market with TelevisionWeek deputy editor and columnist Josef Adalian.
TelevisionWeek: Talk about the decision to rebrand as Shed U.S. in February, taking brands such as Ricochet and Wall to Wall and combining them under one banner.
Nick Emmerson: In the U.K., we operate as independent companies … even though as a matter of fact, we’re one company [Shed Media] on the stock exchange. [That’s because] in the U.K., buyers like to deal with small, bespoke companies. We were doing the same in the U.S., but we realized we were worth more than the sum of our parts. In the U.S., people like to feel that you have size and strength and can deliver the goods. Now we can show that side, but still be a small, bespoke company that people are comfortable with. We’re still at every pitch meeting, and we’re very involved in our shows. We still feel like a friendly, young company.
TVWeek: So what does Shed U.S. bring to the American marketplace?
Mr. Emmerson: What a successful network show [“Supernanny”] does is, it gives you the ear of all the buyers in the U.S. They take your ideas seriously. So priority No. 1 for us was keeping “Supernanny” going. Priority No. 2 was to show the market we could do big, successful shows. When we got “Real Housewives,” it proved we could do docuseries. We’ve since done documentary series and a big, fat reality competition, literally, with “Fat March” for ABC.
If you add all these things up, it shows that we can do anything. What people get when they jump into bed with us is people who can do high-quality programming without breaking the bank, that have great passion behind them and which tend to get picked up again and again.
TVWeek: How are you balancing the exploitation of formats from your British parents with the creation of new product here?
Mr. Emmerson: I’m able to tap into creativity on both sides of the Pond. The U.K. companies supply a steady stream of ideas. But we’ve built a really dynamic team here. Despite my funny accent, 95% of the people who work here are Americans.
TVWeek: How do you see the unscripted U.S. marketplace right now?
Mr. Emmerson: There’s a tremendous opportunity to do business here. In the U.K., there’s an equally big recession and there are maybe six places to do business. Here, there are 50.
But people are playing it more safe than they used to. There are more development deals. They’re trying to take as much risk out of the process as possible. And it’s more competitive than it’s ever been.
TVWeek: Are budgets tighter than they used to be?
Mr. Emmerson: There’s no doubt about it. Budgets are going down as much as 15% to 20%. They’re prepared to pay big numbers for the right projects. But we’ve got to be careful with our money when making shows. … Gone are the days of people creaming huge production fees off the top of budgets and of making money without being held accountable.
The advantage of also doing cable shows, as we do, is that you learn creative ways of getting the money on the screen. “Real Housewives” looks fantastic. It looks better than some network shows.
TVWeek: You’ve recently made a round of executive hires and promotions. What’s behind the changes?
Mr. Emmerson: As we got larger, we felt the need to invest in a bigger development team. Rather than going with expensive overall deals [for producers], we created a young, hungry, in-house development team. The idea behind that is to really keep our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on. While Jen O’Connell and I talk to the senior execs, they can have relationships with the younger executives at all the networks. We’re a lean machine.
TVWeek: Any word on your “Supernanny” spinoff, aka “The Manny”?
Mr. Emmerson: We’re filming a second one-off special for ABC in July with Mike Ruggles. We’re hoping [it becomes a series].
TVWeek: Where would you like Shed U.S. to be in three years?
Mr. Emmerson: I want us to have a returning show on all five networks. And I’d like us to be on at least half the cable networks.

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