EXCLUSIVE: First, Ricky Gervais blogged earlier this week: “We are about to start work on a Chinese The Office. How cool is that?” Then BBC Worldwide poured cold water on the story, telling AP there was “no deal in place, no broadcaster, no production company”. That’s not entirely true. The BBC has now admitted to me that it is indeed developing a Mandarin version of the show with NY-based film financier John Heyman, father of Harry Potter producer David Heyman.  So a Hong Kong subsidiary of Heyman’s World Film Group is developing The Office with BBC exec Pierre Cheung in Beijing. There’s no broadcaster on board yet. Auntie has already sold The Office format to the U.S., Chile, France, Germany, Israel, and Quebec. Next week BBC Worldwide is hosting BBC Showcase China, a screening event for over 100 Chinese TV buyers in Beijing including state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), as well as regional, local and digital networks.

BBCW is offering more than 500 hours of programmes from its catalogues. China already has local-language versions of BBC entertainment formats such as Dancing With the Stars and Top Gear. Meanwhile, Heyman raised more than $3 billion for the studios in the 1970s and 1980s, and World Film Group produced a string of British TV hits during the 1990s including This Life for ITV.