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ITVer may make show for BSkyB

Central TV could become the first ITV company to produce a series for the commercial web’s deadly rival, British Sky Broadcasting.

Central and its partner, indie producer Talbot/Fremantle, are in advanced negotiations to supply the teen quiz show “Blockbusters” to BSkyB’s Sky One, following ITV’s decision to axe it at the end of this year after 10 series.

Talbot managing director David Champtaloup and Sky One chief David Elstein confirmed that a deal was close, but Central exex refused to comment.

Future shock

The deal could mark a watershed in relations between the satellite TV company and ITV producers. “The sort of thing we’re talking about here would have been a burn-at-the-stake heresy a year ago,” said Champtaloup. “But it is the stuff the future is made of.”

For the moment, however, it remains a matter of considerable political sensitivity within ITV. The production subsidiaries of the major ITV stations, hitherto largely restricted to making programs for the ITV web, are keen to expand their market to include the BBC, Channel 4 and the satellite broadcasters. But ITV web bosses are reluctant to see their producers helping boost the opposition.

Champtaloup said one possible way to avoid this conflict of interest, which is being considered in the case of “Blockbusters,” would involve Central retaining the right to screen the show in its ITV region shortly after transmission on Sky.

Diplomacy required

But that would require a level of diplomatic cooperation between Sky and Central that’s probably still beyond any ITV company. Champtaloup called such a double deal “probably too radical at this stage, and Elstein, himself a former ITV program director, said it was “still in the ‘too hard’ basket.”

Nonetheless, times are changing. “As we’ve seen in America, the sight of program bouncing from one channel to another will become commonplace,” Champtaloup said.

Elstein said he was talking to a number of producers about similar deals, some involving current ITV daytime shows.

Sky One’s schedule remains heavily dominated by imported American programming , with only about 10% coming from British producers. Elstein has set himself the target of increasing this proportion to 20% within two years.

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