EXCLUSIVE: In its first development season as a broadcast player, Universal Cable Prods has sold two projects, including one to corporate sibling NBC. The NBC project hails from Numbers creators Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton as well as Doug Liman and Dave Bartis’s UCP-based production company Hypnotic. It is based on a short story from Elmore Leonard’s anthology When the Women Come Out To Dance, the book that also features the short story Fire In The Hole that FX’s series Justified is based on. The NBC project centers on a Colombian mail-order bride who finds herself working as a “fixer” in South Miami as she struggles to escape her troubled past. It joins UCP’s Jason Tracey-penned detective drama Metropolitan, also from Hypnotic, which recently sold to Fox. And there are a few more broadcast pitches in various stages, said UCP’s SVP Maira Suro, who oversees the studio’s development for networks other than the UCP-affiliated USA and Syfy. This is part of the recent strategy implemented by UCP and NBC-affiliated Universal Television to each become a full-service TV studio supplying broadcast and cable networks. UCP and Universal TV (formerly Universal Media Studios) were part of one NBC Universal TV production entity, UMS, that was developing for both broadcast and cable until 2008 when UCP was spun off from UMS and cable and broadcast production was split up between the two.
For UPC, supplying NBC is a priority, Suro said. “For us, part of our expansion, along with selling to other cable and broadcast networks, is serving our sister network NBC,” she said. “If we can be in any way part of the network’s success and help its turnaround, that would be fantastic and a win-win.” As for making the transition from producing for cable, where budgets on average are lower, to broadcast, “I’m sure there will be some adjustments but we are not chasing the broadcast model,” said Suro, whose development team includes Stacey Levin, Garrett Kemble and Stephanie Albrycht. “We are very selective in the projects we take out and are doing them efficiently, so we are confident that we can execute them in the same way we do our successful cable series.” “We won’t be taking out a show like Terra Nova,” she added, referring to Fox’s big-budget, live-action/CGI prehistoric drama. One thing the company will need in reinventing itself as a full-fledged studio is to change its name from Universal Cable Prods.
The sale to NBC marks a homecoming of sorts for Hypnotic, which was previously based at Universal TV (then UMS). Hypnotic originally developed both Covert Affairs and their its UCP-produced MTV comedy series I Just Want My Pants Back for NBC and moved to UCP after NBC passed on the projects and USA picked up Covert Affairs. Hypnotic has now emerged as UCP’s most prolific pod with three series — USA’s Covert Affairs and Suits and MTV’s Pants — and a slew of projects in development. Fallaci and Heuton are with the Rothman Brecher Agency.