ITV looking at a Hollywood model

Wants to polish its writing, production techniques

CANNES -- Injecting a bit of Hollywood DNA into ITV's production processes, the Brit broadcaster plans to import U.S. writing and production techniques in a bid to lower program costs and boost exports, ITV global content head Lee Bartlett said Tuesday.

The former Fox exec leads a troika of recently appointed Hollywood studio execs that includes former News Corp. exec Paul Buccieri, who now runs ITV's L.A.-based production business, and Peter Iacono, a former Sony executive who is in charge of international sales. The three now sit atop the British commercial broadcaster's domestic, international production and licensing operations.

Bartlett, who oversees the broadcaster's production, and to whom Buccieri and Iacono report, said that he plans to expand writing teams for U.K. dramas, and film longer runs of successful shows in a bid to transform the traditional U.K. production model.

"Right now, U.K. broadcasters commission six episodes and if the show is successful, they commission a second series," he said. "By the time they do that, they've shut down production and then have to spend money twice on production and marketing."

Bartlett aims to film drama series much closer to their airdates, so that if a show debuts successfully, the production can be extended to accommodate 13 episodes at much less cost. Shows that debut poorly can be wrapped at six episodes, potentially still having an international sales window, he said. Such a model is "standard practice" in the U.S., he said.

"If we can produce all 13 episodes at once, then the production costs are much less," he said, adding that the new model will alter the risk profile of production.

The new model will likely need star writers to work in teams and accept support, but it already has the support of ITV director of television Peter Fincham, who is responsible for scheduling and commissioning for ITV1.

ITV has yet to implement the new production model, and Bartlett was keen to point out the process -- which would mark a big change from the way British creative teams have worked in the past -- will have to win the support of writers and producers.

"It's about doing it (production) smarter," he said. "And if I do that, then to a certain extent I'm doing it cheaper at the same time as adding value."
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