International president of ITV Studios Maria Kyriacou on Friday delivered the keynote at MIA, Rome’s premier market for film, TV and digital industries. Industry professionals gathered from around the globe over the market’s four days, and were eager to hear the secret behind ITV’s success.
ITV Studios is currently the U.K.’s biggest production and distribution company, with aims to further conquer the international marketplace. The company has evolved over the last five years beyond the U.K., currently making, selling or distributing more than 40,000 hours of television around the globe.
Kyriacou explained that the company radically shifted after 2010 when TV advertising revenues continued to fall in the U.K., and ITV knew it wouldn’t survive if it didn’t greatly expand its empire.
“We have to be a diversified business,” Kyriacou told the assembled industry leaders in Rome.
And with Britain’s recent political fallout, positioning ITV as a global company proved to be even more important. “With our growth over the last five years, we were well-prepared for Brexit,” she said.
The company has kept to a vigorous production company acquisition strategy, with a current slate of 58 labels. Kyriacou attributes their success to granting hands-off creative control to the individual companies, and encouraging collaborations between international productions.
One of their most successful acquisitions is the Dutch company Talpa, responsible for a wide suite of shows including The Voice.
“The Voice is a true international hit that will last for years, which is very, very rare,” said Kyriacou of the show.
Additionally, instead of shying away from the new media, ITV has collaborated with all leading digital platforms on new shows, including Hulu, Amazon and Netflix, to reach new audiences. Their acquisition of AwesomenessTV aims to point millennials back toward linear TV with branded content blocks on channels.
“Every time you realize the audience has gone somewhere else, you’ve got to go with them,” she said.
Currently expansion plans in the U.S., under ITV Studios America president Philippe Maigret, aim to create one of the largest independent scripted studios stateside.
One stateside show Kyriacou is particularly excited about is the TNT pilot Let the Right One In, based on the hit Swedish vampire film.
“It goes way beyond all the normal vampire shows,” Kyriacou told The Hollywood Reporter. “It just becomes something different when you can tell it through the eyes of the boy’s experience.”
In addition to the U.S., ITV also is focused on increasing their presence in Europe to compete with the likes of FremantleMedia and Banijay Entertainment.
“The next six to 12 months is all about investments in European production,” said Kyriacou, hinting that they’re also on the lookout for the next great Italian show. “We’re still not a major player in Europe.”
With the end of surprise hit Downton Abbey, media has been buzzing around whether the new drama series Victoria can fill Abbey’s massive shoes. And Kyriacou is happy to announce that early results for the show prove it is heir to the Downton crown.
“Luckily, the hole is already filled by Victoria,” confirmed Kyriacou, noting that the show has already sold in 150 territories.
With 8 million viewers in the U.K., it is one of the country’s best-performing dramas this year.
In the U.S., PBS is hoping Downton fans will also latch onto the new show. It will launch in January in the network’s Downton slot.
“It’s not about history,” Kyriacou said of Victoria and its universal appeal. “It’s about an 18-year old girl with raging hormones.”