The British are coming

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Keep an ear open for a chorus of British accents around Hollywood next week as a posse of senior creative executives from ITV Prods. pitches as many as 20 programming concepts to the networks and studios.

It's the first time that the muscular U.K. production operation has mounted such a major push in the U.S -- and it comes at a time when more foreign scripted and reality formats than ever make U.S. bows.

The operation is the idea of Paul Buccieri, Granada America's recently appointed president and CEO. Formerly president of programming, production and development at Twentieth TV, and the first American to hold the top post at Granada America, Buccieri says he intends to bring ITV's top production people from such regions as Australia and Germany to the U.S. as many as four times a year.

Granada America is the U.S. production arm of ITV.

Buccieri's job is to lead a team of producers in the U.S. with a mission to expand ITV's growing U.S. business interests through the creation of new series and formats. He also is in charge of exploiting ITV formats created in the company's production centers in the U.K., Germany and Australia. And his "pitch tours" in the U.S. will be a key part of that mission.

Among the ITV delegation next week will be senior executives Jim Allen, director of factual and entertainment; Natalka Znak, controller of factual entertainment; Tim Miller, head of popular factual programming; and Sharon Stansfield, head of development, factual programming.

"When I went to the U.K. in December, I didn't fully realize the size and scope of ITV and ITV Prods. and the sheer manpower and creativity," Buccieri says. "Here is this 15-story building that is dedicated to production. That's impressive."

In fact, ITV Prods. creates more than 3,000 hours of original programming each year. It is responsible for some of the most popular brands on U.K. television, including the serials "Coronation Street" and "Emmerdale," as well as the reality series "I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!" and the hit "Dancing on Ice," which is just one of the shows he thinks will strike a chord with U.S. audiences.

"I don't think the huge amount of creativity there has ever been fully realized in the U.S.," Buccieri says. "I felt strongly that we should bring over our creative team en masse, the creators of the top shows 'Dancing on Ice' or 'I'm a Celebrity.' " The idea, he says, "is to bring that energy from London's ITVP creative adjunct directly into the boardrooms in Hollywood.

"This also ties in with what we are trying to do in terms of globalizing the operations. We have stepped up our level of communications, and we are trying to work as one global development unit rather than separate silos. That's the way we feel we can maximize and leverage our creative content throughout all the markets."

The plan is for Granada America to continue to make original content out of its Los Angeles and New York production center and to dig deep into its U.K., German and Australian operations for formats that can suit U.S. viewing tastes.

"For instance, we have (in the U.S.) 'The Big Match' commissioned by Lifetime as a pilot, but we are also pitching it now in all the different territories," Buccieri says. "Technology is certainly helping in that regard. It's better than ever. We can cut a sizzle tape and instantly get it out to our people all over the world."
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