C4 logoChannel 4 has struck a development deal with Kinetic Content, the new US production company set up by former RDF USA boss Chris Coelen. Under the deal, 4Rights, Channel 4’s rights exploitation division, will have first-look at UK rights to Kinetic shows which get picked up by US cable networks.

In effect, Channel 4 is seed funding US cable shows which it can then broadcast over here. At the moment, it’s talking about developing two or three shows each year. That’s comparable to the $300,000 per hour it pays roughly for US acquisitions. Channel 4’s investment will increase if a show does get picked up. The broadcaster has always enjoyed big ratings with US imports such as ER and Friends. This way round is a kind of reverse engineering – developing shows which C4 thinks will work in Britain.

Kinetic is developing 13-part cable dramas as well as shorter-run event series. Coelen will start meeting writers and agents over the coming month.

As CEO of RDF USA, Coelen oversaw the company’s move into scripted programming, obtaining series orders for dramas including the US version of BBC Three’s Being Human with cable network Syfy, and the Channel 4/Showtime co-production Meadowlands (Cape Wrath).

Dominic Schreiber, rights development manager at 4Rights, tells me: “Channel 4 buys a lot of US shows from the studios. This is a different way of looking at the US. It’s getting involved with writers and show-runners at the development stage. And we’ve got more creative input if a show does get picked up – although we are well aware of how competitive the US market is.

“At the moment, we’re just concentrating on our deal with Chris. But if an established writer or show-runner comes to us, we wouldn’t turn them down. I hope we can do more deals like this in the future.”