In a landmark deal, NBCUniversal International Television Production, Germany’s RTL and France’s TF1 are teaming for a first-of-its-kind co-production pact that will see the three join to produce U.S.-style, English-language procedural dramas in North America. The aim is to make up to three new series over two years that will be jointly commissioned and allow the European broadcasters to secure a pipeline of high-quality procedural content aided by NBCU’s expertise in the genre which includes such credits as Law & Order and House. The collaboration was conceived by NBCU-ITVP president Michael Edelstein who earlier in his career had oversight of the CSI phenomenon at CBS.
With event television increasingly becoming the order of the day in the U.S., European broadcasters have bemoaned a lack of procedurals that can easily be stacked for primetime audiences. Viewing habits differ in Europe with a network such as TF1 airing three hours of a series in one evening. Edelstein tells me that after listening to broadcasters’ concerns in the past year, he thought, “Why don’t we just make (procedurals) for our customers directly?”
“Procedural drama is a highly popular TV format in the global marketplace due to its episodic, rather than serialized, format. This pioneering venture with RTL and TF1 has the ability to create a number of exciting new series and represents the bold approach of these forward thinking broadcasters. For the first time, our partners will have the opportunity to commission U.S. procedural drama directly from a company with a proven track record of success in the genre,” Edelstein said.
JoAnn Alfano, NBCU-ITVP’s EVP of Scripted Programming, and her team in Los Angeles, will have responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day creative, including development and production for each project. The series, of 12-14 episodes each, will be developed to have broad international appeal but will be written, shot and cast in the U.S. and Canada. Budgets are understood to be around $3M per episode.
The partnership will look to tap into a stable of procedural writing talent that has in some ways fallen out of vogue in recent times. Hopes are to identify a first series by the end of the year with production to begin in the spring of 2016.
Alfano says, “There is an incredible talent pool of procedural writers and producers in the U.S. For some time now, they have had few outlets for their ideas. We look forward to working with the wealth of talent that exists in the U.S. and developing the next generation of procedural drama hits.”
All of the partners will have an active role in the co-production deal. A dedicated Creative Board, led by Alfano, will direct editorial and greenlight decisions and will be made up of RTL’s Joerg Graf, EVP Productions & International Acquisitions; Bernd Reichart, CEO, Vox Television ; as well as two executives from TF1; and, Edelstein.
RTL and TF1 will own the rights in their territories, and NBCUniversal will license the rights for the U.S. and the rest of the world on behalf of the partnership. The strategic relationship also includes a meaningful financial participation in success.
RTL’s Graf says, “We have negotiated this new form of collaboration because we are both firmly convinced that now the time is right to take the next step – which means to develop and produce procedural drama shows with strong, proven partners particularly for the European free TV market. This will give Mediengruppe RTL not only the opportunity to produce tailor-made formats for our national markets in Europe but also allows us to secure the entire scope of rights for these programs for all forms of distribution.”
Nonce Paolini, Chairman and CEO of TF1, adds, “Based on the sharing of skills between our teams, it will enable us to propose series that more closely target the expectations of French TV viewers. From a business perspective, the partnership will, in the medium term, increase the profitability of our programs and allow TF1 to benefit from exclusive operating rights in France as well as from the financial impact of their distribution worldwide.”