The head of BBC Worldwide Productions also discussed the creation of sister company Adjacent Productions.
BBC Worldwide Productions head Jane Tranter has revealed further details about its strategy for the US.
Speaking at the annual conference of the British Screen Advisory Council (BSAC) in London yesterday, Tranter said the activities of BBCWP set out to “enhance the creative reputation of the BBC and the particular types of programming it does.”
Tranter is given specific commercial targets every year “that I need to make in order to return money back to the mothership in the UK.”
The executive has had a spectacular run of success since she went to the US in January 2009. She headed there to launch BBC Worldwide Productions at the bidding of then BBC Director General, Mark Thompson.
Overseeing both scripted and unscripted US re-formats of BBC programming, she has nurtured such US hits for the Beeb as Top Gear (with History), Life Below Zero (Nat Geo) and Da Vinci’s Demons (Starz).
However, Tranter quickly realized that there “simply wasn’t going to be a big enough business to be made” simply through re-formatting, which led to the creation of sister company Adjacent Productions in 2012 to “generate original ideas” under a different label.
The two businesses have 16 shows in production and a core staff of just over 30 people. Tranter calculated that the companies have generated around $100m in profits that have gone back to the BBC in the UK.
“It is a strange thing to be running a production company and not to be re-investing your profits in that production company but I have the tremendous pleasure of seeing those profits re-invested in the mothership production company, which is BBC in-house,” Tranter said.
“Later, other programmes will come through (in the UK) which in a few years time we can format in the US - and so the virtuous circle can continue.”
In response to criticism that Adjacent’s activities could put license fee money at risk, Tranter insisted “we cover our costs completely”. If there was a risk, she said the companies would “shrink” their activities.
Asked to comment on the increasing overlap between film and TV industries, Tranter pointed to the “freedom”. She said that top directing and acting talent “are looking and loving what high end American and British television are doing.”
She also pointed to the attraction of “having longer to tell a story (for TV), 10 hours rather than two, without some of the pressures of movie making. It’s not that television production isn’t pressured. It is hugely pressurized but it’s a different type of pressure…and they (the talent) want to have a go at something different.”
The showrunner is “king or queen” in TV drama, Tranter continued. In movies, by contrast, “when so much money is invested, the financier is ultimately king or queen. The director may have final cut but the person who has put all the money into the movie” was more likely to have “final say”.