20th TV, ITV bridging pond


In the biggest American-British TV production partnership to date, 20th Century Fox TV has joined forces with ITV Global Content, the production and distribution arm of U.K. giant ITV, which also controls the country's leading broadcaster ITV Network.

Under the one-year pact, sealed by three Americans — 20th chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman and ITV Global Content managing director Lee Bartlett — the two companies will co-finance a joint development fund to create original programming.

"There is a lot of goodwill and understanding on both sides," said Bartlett, who has been a rising star at ITV since joining the company in March from Fox Broadcasting Co., where he served as head of business affairs.

Under the deal, 20th TV and ITV will have access to each other's roster of formats, as well as production facilities. The first projects to come out of the venture are British versions of 20th TV's comedy for ABC "Dharma & Greg" and its 2006 Fox crime drama pilot "Southern Comfort," which will be shepherded by ITV Prods., ITV Global Content's domestic production arm.

The pact is not exclusive, allowing 20th TV and ITV to also work with other producing partners in both countries. Through its ITV Worldwide division (formerly Granada), ITV Global Content has two new series on U.S. networks' fall schedule: "Eleventh Hour" on CBS, a co-production with CBS Par, and "Sit Down, Shut Up," a co-production with Sony and 20th TV.

British production companies have partnered with U.S. studios before — BBC Worldwide Prods., for instance, has a first-look deal with Sony TV — but this is the first time major TV studios on both sides of the Atlantic are developing shows together.

Those shows could be produced in two different versions for the U.S. and British TV markets — with 20th TV and ITV splitting international territories for each one — or as a single show that airs in both countries, like the BBC/ HBO co-production "Extras."

With the joint development fund, the two sides are committed to financing as many viable projects as the division comes up with — spending from a few hundred thousand dollars on script development to several million on producing presentations, sources said. The partners are looking to explore various development routs and produce at least one new show during in the first year.

"The goal is to be as nontraditional as possible in the development process and have as many avenues for experimentation open as possible," Walden said.

The joint development unit will be headed up by former Granada exec Ann Johnson and Steve Sicherman, 20th TV's vps current programming, and Kate Bartlett and Saurabh Kakkar from ITV Prods.(partialdiff)