Granada eyes country songs for drama series

Company lining up artist deals before pitching to TV nets

Country songs sure can tell stories. Now TV production company Granada America wants to make some of those stories into a series of one-hour TV dramas.

The film-producing duo of Mark Roberts and Lorena David ("Strangers With Candy," "Extreme Dating") pitched the project to Granada and will executive produce it with veteran music supervisor Joel C. High of Creative Control Entertainment. Dubbed "American Storytellers," the series will have access to least seven songs from Sony/ATV Music Publishing as well as works by other publishers to be named.

"We have worked with them for upwards of two years to find the right songs for the project," Sony/ATV Nashville president Troy Tomlinson said. "The music was to be the driving force behind the series."

The music publisher boasts a formidable country catalog that includes classics by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Roger Miller as well as recent hits by Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts. But Sony/ATV and Granada executives declined to reveal which songs will be used in the series until they secure all remaining publishing and related deals.

"We have a list of songs, which are more episodes than we are making," said Julie Meldal-Johnsen, senior vp business development at Granada America. "But we'd rather keep the titles under wraps for now."

Top country artists whose songs will be showcased in the episodes might appear on camera as well, she said. Once Granada lines up deals with artists, script writers and directors, it will pitch "Storytellers" to TV networks, Meldal-Johnsen said. "We want to develop it properly," she says.

Granada America is the U.S.-based production unit of the U.K.-based ITV, one of Europe's largest producers and broadcasters of TV programs. Its U.S. shows include "The Chopping Block" on NBC, "The First 48" on A&E and "Nanny 911" on CMT.

"In any climate, it's wonderful that the songs that you represent are chosen to be used in such a broad outlet as television," Tomlinson said. "But to have it in today's challenging economy, it's even more encouraging."