BBC Worldwide embraces deficit financing

Aims to grow production in Argentina, Canada, U.S.

LONDON -- BBC Worldwide plans to grow its international production activities and deficit-finance more homegrown shows for the U.K. market, head of content and production Wayne Garvie said Wednesday.

Garvie, who oversees the BBC's L.A.-based drama unit run by Jane Tranter, as well as the entertainment production unit that delivers ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," also said the pubcaster's commercial arm expected to announce drama and comedy projects stateside in the New Year.

"We've got some things in development and I'd be very disappointed if we were not on air in the next 12 months," he said, speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch. "But it is a very tough market in the U.S."

Tranter is working with Julie Gardner and "Doctor Who" executive producer Russell T. Davies on creating fare for the U.S. market, but they have ruled out plans for a U.S. version of the U.K. sci-fi smash hit.

Garvie said the BBC intended to grow production in such markets as Argentina, Canada and the U.S., aiming to expand overseas share of BBC Worldwide's revenue from 51% last year to 66% in five years.

Citing the funding difficulties faced by independent producers here -- particularly in such high end genres as drama and factual -- Garvie said Worldwide would step in and finance non-BBC productions in return for international distribution rights.

"If you are a TV producer you are behaving like a film producer used to -- getting funding from all sorts of places," he said, adding that just as drama and comedy productions were struggling to close their financing packages, big budget entertainment could be heading the same way.

"It's just a feeling but it's the way the world is going."

BBC Worldwide, which distributes key fare for BBC in-house production as well as high profile indies like Tiger Aspect and Kudos, recently negotiated a deal with ITV Productions to co-finance the new series of the dinosaur drama "Primeval" alongside digital channel group UKTV.

"Our role is to help great ideas come to screen as broadcasters around the world begin to talk about the 'D' word. It's all about deficit financing now."

BBC Worldwide also announced a first look deal with Utopia, the new production entity launched by former BBC and Discovery executive Jane Root, and said it had signed an online rights deal with internet TV business Seesaw.