EXCLUSIVE: Two of the bosses of Downton Abbey producer Carnival Films have launched a new NBCUniversal-backed venture aimed at financing and distributing third-party scripted projects on a global basis.

I hear that David O’Donoghue and Nigel Marchant, who are joint managing directors of NBCU-backed producer Carnival, have established Proponent Pictures to attract producers keen to tap into the Hollywood studio’s global production and distribution mechanism.

The pair, who will remain in their current roles at the Jamestown producer, have revealed details of the new venture to a handful of producers in the UK and are looking to work on both English-language series and foreign language dramas.

It’s understood that Proponent Pictures will be housed within Universal Media Studios International, which registered the company with the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. It will come under the purview of Jeff Wachtel, who took over as President of NBCUniversal International Studios at the start of 2018, and Carnival Films Executive Chairman Gareth Neame.

It is expected to offer a range of deals from co-financing projects with smaller producers through to traditional distribution arrangements, via NBCUniversal’s international TV sales operation.

Carnival Films and NBCU has previously worked with third party producers on a number of titles including David Hare’s Bill Nighy-fronted Worricker Trilogy, which was a co-production with Heyday Films and Beaglepug, and BBC Shakespeare drama The Hollow Crown (pictured), which was a co-pro with Neal Street.

O’Donoghue initially joined Carnival Films in 2007, working on the production and financing of shows such as Downton Abbey, Any Human Heart and US network drama The Philanthropist and the integration of Carnival into NBCUniversal. He stepped into a corporate role at the Hollywood studio before returning to Carnival in 2012 and becoming joint MD in 2017. Meanwhile, Nigel Marchant is an Emmy and Golden Globe award winning producer and joined Carnival in 2011 as Executive Producer, having previously produced feature films such as Charlie Wilson’s War, Rendition and Sex and the City as well as season one of Downton Abbey and The Philanthropist. He exec produces The Last Kingdom and has worked on shows including The Worricker Trilogy for the BBC and Dracula for Sky and NBC.