What’s the best move for a U.K. prodco that wants to expand? Judging from the actions of companies such as Carlton Productions and Lion Television, set up an office on the eastern shores of the United States. Carlton took the initiative last year (see RealScreen, October 2002), and Lion Television follows suit this month, with the opening of its New York office.
According to Ciara Byrne, VP of program development for Lion Television New York, the move was necessary for Lion to continue doing business with U.S. broadcasters. She explains: ‘I ran development at Lion U.K. before I came here and the frustrating thing always was trying to develop ideas for America from London. I wasn’t able to watch American television, I didn’t know what was on – I looked at a schedule, but you can’t really tell – I couldn’t just pop down to D.C. and meet with Discovery or TLC and say, ‘What do you think of this?’ It was always a big trip across the Atlantic.’
To start, Byrne’s U.S. team consists of four permanent staff charged with development. In addition, Lion New York will hire U.S. producers and directors to work on specific projects. Byrne says the office’s projected output for 2003 is 60 hours, ranging from series in the US$150,000-per- hour range to blue-chip specials with budgets of $600,000 or $700,000 per hour.
Lion New York already has several projects in the works, including: Lawrence of Arabia: The Battle for theArab World, a 2 x 60-minute doc for PBS and Washington, D.C.-based Devillier Donegan Enterprises; History Detectives, a 10 x 60-minute series, also for PBS; and Miami Animal Vice, a 15 x 60-minute series for Animal Planet.
Byrne says she’ll continue to work closely with Lion’s London office. ‘There’s a development staff of about 15 at Lion in the U.K., and they have a lot of different areas of expertise that we don’t have here yet.’ As an example, Byrne notes that she is currently working with Lion U.K.’s Adam Wood on a format project for Discovery.