Granada's Gyngell turns up the heat Aussie style


The British entertainment force behind the international hit reality series "Hell's Kitchen" and other popular series is cooking up a new recipe for a greatly expanded production slate. The head chef is a straight-talking CEO who hails from Australia and who is definitely not afraid to turn up the heat.

David Gyngell took over as CEO of Granada America earlier this year after surprising the Australian TV sector by resigning as CEO of leading Nine Network with the damning indictment that "unhelpful and multilayered management systems" had got in the way of him doing his job as he saw fit.

The son of Australian TV legend Bruce Gyngell, the first person to appear on Australian television when it launched 50 years ago, and the godson of media mogul Kerry Packer, David Gyngell certainly has the pedigree to push the envelope even further at Granada America. But he says he wants to do it with kid gloves, not the iron fist for which some of those tough Aussie media mavericks have become famous -- or infamous.

"The Australian market punches harder than its weight division," the 40-year-old Gyngell confesses candidly. "I think I have had a good insight from the tough end of the business. But great creative doesn't come from being tough. It comes from great storytelling and great characters. And that needs to come from a place of respect and encouragement for the creative community."

Granada, parent of Granada America, is one of Europe's leading commercial television production and distribution companies and part of top U.K. media company ITVplc.

When Gyngell took the Granada America job, he joined a company that had grown into the largest foreign-owned supplier programming to U.S. television. It supplied 398 hours of U.S. programming in 2004 and 2005 and is on track to produce at least 224 hours of U.S. programming this year. Now, Gyngell is building on that success and growing Granada America in various new directions, he says.

For a start, production has gone in-house through the retention of high-profile U.S. and Australian production teams who will develop and produce new programming. In the past, the company relied on third-party executive producers.

Additionally, there is a concerted and well-funded effort to develop original programs that can be commissioned by networks outside the U.S., such as ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others. He adds that Granada America's New York division is a prolific part of the mix and has just expanded its "Swat" police reality franchise with a new deal with A&E for "Kansas City Swat" and "Detroit Swat." Other shows under his watch include VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club" and MTV's "Room Raiders."

"The world is your oyster if you can make a show work in the U.S., because you know then that it's going to work in most of the English-speaking territories. I'm passionate about getting access to original content," Gyngell says. He has pulled together a development team from various TV genres from the U.S. and the U.K. "We have a helluva lot in development, but that doesn't mean much unless you get a sale," he adds.

But Gyngell has constructed a comprehensive business plan that basically ensures that no product remains on the shelf. This includes output deals with international broadcasters as well as a portal to supply programming to the powerful ITV broadcast family in the U.K. including its expanding digital outlets. "It's very similar now to the early '90s in the U.S. ... and it is a giant opportunity for companies like ours because we are really a mini studio."