U.K.'s Pinewood Shepperton Upgrades TV Studios to Attract More Small-Screen Projects

Best known for its work on the "James Bond" franchise, the studio facilities operator looks to continue to draw TV productions after a multi-million pound renovation.

LONDON - U.K. studio facilities giant Pinewood Shepperton Group has completed a multi-million pound investment in its TV production space to attract additional TV projects and further diversify its revenue streams.

Pinewood TV late in the week showed off its newly upgraded 9,000 square foot HD TV studios just outside London to clients.

The Pinewood studio space operator has long been a place used by TV producers, hosting such shows as Sky 1's Got to Dance and ITV's Dancing on Ice. It also more recently has been the home of The Love Machine, a dating show on BSkyB's Sky Living network.

But it is best-known for its film work, particularly as the home of the James Bond franchise. The latest installment, Skyfall, shot here on the famous 007 stage.

Sitcoms, quiz shows, panel shows and in-studio competitions are the focus areas for Pinewood's TV unit. But possible TV upside is in focus across the U.K. these days amid expectations that the government will launch incentives for high-end drama productions in the vein of Downton Abbey next year.

The company's renovated two HD TV studios now have an increased studio lighting infrastructure, new floors, new cutting-edge galleries and increased production accommodation, among other things.

For larger productions, Pinewood is also offering the new 30,000 square-foot Richard Attenborough Stage, designed for both film and TV productions, and a total of 32 further stages of up to 59,000 square foot across its sites. This means productions can accommodate audiences of more than 2,000 people, according to the firm.

“It’s fair to say that in certain parts of the industry Pinewood is best known for its film credits," Nick Smith, Pinewood's commercial director, said. "The Pinewood board and management team, however, are firmly committed to our TV business, and this is backed up by the multi-million pound investment…We want Pinewood to be the first call for any production team working on any genre of TV and believe with this investment we will be.”

"TV has always been part of our strategy, but there is room to do more," Paul Darbyshire, Pinewood's broadcast director, told THR. "But TV and film and their production are blending together more these days. And because we have a TV department, we can help clients with our staff. This TV knowledge gives us a competitive edge."

He also emphasized: “This new investment is in direct response to our clients' evolving needs. We need to be as flexible as possible and need to have a core infrastructure in place that gives us options - whether it’s on the number of cameras required, set turnaround, audio channels, data management or simply accommodation space. No two productions are the same, and we need to respond to that."

One key focus for Pinewood in its upgrades was to keep its space and set-up as flexible as possible to leave creative decisions in producers' hands. "Space and flexibility are really important," Darbyshire said. "We can adjust the TV studios to suit whatever they need. They can operate 20 cameras from here if needed. It is all set up to allow productions to bring in additional people and equipment as needed."

Giving people a lot of space is key in today's industry, "because productions need a lot of people nowadays," Darbyshire explained. "Productions tend to have more things going on - audience participation, graphics on screens etc. andmore producers and writers want to be part of it these days, so there is demand for space."

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai