BBC Worldwide, Len Blavatnik's Access, 'Ripper Street' Producer Team on Straight-to-Series Finance Model

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Len Blavatnik (left) and Danny Cohen

New commissioning body Benchmark will fast-track shows to production without first securing backing from any network or digital platform.

BBC Worldwide is teaming with Len Blavatnik's Access Entertainment and Ripper Street production firm Lookout Point, in which the commercial arm of the BBC owns a 49 percent stake, to provide financing to fast-track production of premium scripted drama for global TV audiences.

The newly formed commissioning entity, to be called Benchmark Television, will not produce series directly but will provide full straight-to-series funding underwritten by BBC Worldwide and Access Entertainment. The partners said the model would offer "world-renowned writing and producing talent a new route to production," providing a series greenlight to producers without having to first secure backing from a network or online platform.

"The commercial model for producers is designed to give the creators and producers significant rights ownership and to be attractive to a wide variety of production partners, including those owned by major studios and media groups," the companies stated.

The group said their goal was to greenlight a major series in the coming months, noting they were already in early talks with "globally recognized talent."

Former BBC TV chief Danny Cohen recently joined veteran producer Blavatnik (Hacksaw Ridge, Lee Daniel's The Butler) as president of TV production group Access Entertainment. Cohen will chair a group that also includes BBC Worldwide chief content officer Helen Jackson, and Lookout Point CEOs Simon Vaughan and Faith Penhale to develop, select and oversee the commissioning process. BBC Worldwide will manage, in partnership, global rights for all series financed under the new model.

Lookout will be responsible for the day-to-day management and operation of Benchmark, working closely with Access Entertainment and BBC Worldwide "to harness the combined team's extensive relationships with the global creative community."

Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, said: "This innovative partnership will finance and produce world-class scripted television for audiences around the world. Access Entertainment plans to work with the world's very best writers and producers over the coming years and invest significant capital in television production."

Added Cohen: "This is a groundbreaking partnership that delivers a new model for drama production and financing. We believe it will excite producers and writers and provide a new route to market for scripted series. We will be seeking premium-quality projects and will provide the resources to get blue-chip drama into production for audiences to enjoy around the world."