Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Content: Creative commissioning

By Kate Bulkley

The Guardian

January 14th, 2008

FremantleMedia, Talkback Thames' parent company, is keen to push the envelope in 360-degree commissioning. One of its central strategies is to secure key on-screen and production talent. But rather than simply buying up production companies, Fremantle announced near the end of last year a 20m fund to make strategic investments in producers and talent.

"You don't have to own people to have a good relationship with them," says Lorraine Heggessey, chief executive officer of Talkback Thames. "I learned a lot about this from working with Simon Cowell [co-producer of Pop Idol and The X Factor]. It's about partnering with key talent so we can take all the headaches away from them on the production and administration side, so they can focus on the creative side."

Talkback Thames was the first of the Fremantle production companies to tap into the fund, securing deals (worth an undisclosed amount) with comedy writer Graham Linehan (IT Crowd); actor Trevor Eve (Waking the Dead); and Polly Leys' and Kate Norrish's independent drama production company, Hillbilly.

Particularly as producers want to develop 360 content that can live on other digital platforms beyond the TV, securing high-profile talent is a key strategy. "I think talent is very aware of their own market value and they want to retain a certain amount of their independence," says Heggessey.

"If you are talent with profile, then particularly in the digital marketplace you have that recognition factor which can help to drive hits to your site. Just look at what Ricky Gervais (The Office and Extras) has done or Danny Baker (radio/TV presenter) online."


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