NBC Uni spreads o'seas TV wings

Bromstad to run global

NBC Universal is throwing its hat in the international TV production marketplace in a big way with the launch of a London-based international production division to be headed by former NBC Uni TV Studio president Angela Bromstad.

The move is part of NBC Universal International's aggressive expansion plan in television under new president Peter Smith, who took over the company in September.

"Angela did an incredible job at our studio during the last several years in Los Angeles," NBC Uni president and CEO Jeff Zucker said. "It makes great sense for her to bring her tremendous experience, good taste and important relationships to this new international playing field. This is a huge priority for our company, and I couldn't be more excited about our prospects with Angela and Pete Smith leading the charge."

The new production unit will focus on developing scripted and reality programming for the U.K. and other international markets. It also will expand NBC Uni's international format licensing business, which got off to a good start the past couple of years with local versions of Wolf Films/Universal Media Services' "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" in France and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in Russia. The unit will develop and produce its projects in partnerships with production entities from the respective markets that will be identified by Bromstad and her team.

"We're so myopic in the U.S. in terms of our product," Bromstad said in a phone interview from London. "With the changing economic and political landscape in Europe, Latin America and other parts of the world, countries like Russia, France, Germany, Japan and Mexico want their own locally produced comedies and dramas with their own stars instead of dubbed versions of ours."

Bromstad, who officially will assume her post as president of international TV production at NBC Universal International on Sept. 1, admits that starting a new business from scratch in a foreign country is a learning curve. But that she likes the challenge.

"It's going to be a pretty exciting opportunity, as much as I'm going to miss the producers and the shows (at UMS)," Bromstad said.

NBC Uni's international TV unit will adopt the pod studio model, with production companies from different countries operating as pods within the division. Bromstad has firsthand knowledge of working in that model from her tenure at NBC Uni TV Studio (now UMS), whose roster of pods includes Broadway Video, Wolf Films, Reveille and Conaco.

Despite being the new kid on the block in the international marketplace, Bromstad believes that NBC Uni will be able to compete with well-established local producers worldwide for the best talent, creating co-ventures with promising and innovative independent companies.

"What NBC Universal offers is money and a name that is appealing to them," Bromstad said.

The new unit will supply NBC Uni's international TV channel division, which is expanding rapidly, as well as local broadcasters in the different markets.

Additionally, original formats developed at the division will be submitted to NBC for domestic consideration.

Bromstad originally was approached about a different London-based NBC Uni position in September. In December, top NBC Uni brass began to evaluate the idea of a London-based international production division and went to her with the idea.

"Jeff has always known that that Los Angeles wasn't my final destination," Bromstad said. "I thought I'd go to New York when Europe came up. Our daughter goes to school in London, we have friends here, and there is the draw of the European lifestyle, which we love. It was almost too good to be true."

In her introduction to the British TV scene, Bromstad will get help from Ben Silverman, the new co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and UMS, who has strong ties to the British TV industry. He started his career as an agent in London and adapted a number of British formats as a producer, including "The Office."

"He promised to roll out the red carpet for me here," Bromstad said. "You need someone open to ideas from across the globe, and I can't think of a better person than Ben to be in that position at NBC."

The major U.S. TV players have been exploring ways to get into production in foreign territories with the growth in popularity of locally produced series. Making the prospect even more lucrative, a number of countries, particularly those from the former Soviet bloc, have grown stronger economically and have developed healthy ad markets.

News Corp. has been particularly active through its Fox TV Studios, which has production units in Australia, New Zealand, France and India.

FtvS recently shut down its London-based production outlet, as the company is moving from owning local production facilities to partnering with existing local production entities and broadcasters internationally (HR 6/11).

Bromstad left NBC Uni TV Studio in May as part of the executive restructuring at the top of NBC and the studio. As co-president and president of NBC Uni TV Studio the past three years, Bromstad oversaw the development of such series as NBC's "Heroes," "Office," "Friday Night Lights," "30 Rock," the launch of Fox's "House" and the production of the "Law & Order" franchise. On the cable side, she shepherded such series as "Battlestar Galactica," "Monk," "Psych" and "Eureka." The studio's upcoming series include NBC's Bionic Woman," "Life," "Lipstick Jungle" and "The IT Crowd."

Bromstad previously served as executive vp at NBC Studios and senior vp drama development at NBC Entertainment.
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