Hat Trick scores with deal at ABC

Indie British producer Hat Trick Prods. has inked its first deal in the United States with ABC, which will fund at least two Hat Trick pilots over the course of the three-year deal.

Hat Trick will open up an arm in the United States and is now seeking a studio home to set up shop. In addition to its obligation to produce two pilots, ABC will partially fund the company’s U.S. operations, making it one of the largest commitments to a foreign production company by an American network.

Hat Trick is run by joint managing directors Denise O’Donoghue and Jimmy Mulville.

The deal is the latest indication that U.S. companies are increasingly turning to the United Kingdom for fresh ideas. Hat Trick is the second British entertainment company ABC has partnered with in the past year; the web also linked with Granada to create the upcoming drama “Cracker.” ABC’s parent studio Disney also has an overall deal with the British producer Planet 24, which is producing Buena Vista TV’s upcoming “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” for syndication.

U.S. conversions

Hat Trick’s expertise is mainly in comedy, and some of its British shows could be converted for the U.S. market. Its first project for ABC is expected to be a U.S. version of the BBC sitcom “The Peter Principle,” which is about a bank president promoted just beyond his level of competence. Hat Trick will hire U.S. writers to work with the original British show creators.

Hat Trick, an 11-year-old indie, is considered one of Britain’s most innovative writer-driven companies. For the past three years, the company has won the Indie Pioneer Award given by the U.K. independent producer’s association called PACT, which has changed the name of its top prize to the Hat Trick Pioneer Award. The company has also been honored with international Emmys and British Academy and Ace awards.

Over the next year, Hat Trick will be producing 12 network series in the United Kingdom, including sitcoms “Father Ted,” which is a surreal comedy about three Irish priests; “Game On,” about a group of twentysomething losers; and “Drop the Dead Donkey,” a comedy set in a TV newsroom.

Hat Trick also produces several satirical gameshows, such as the half-hour news quiz show “Have I Got News for You” and the improv game “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” The company recently branched into dramatic made-fors based on recent events and political scandals.

While ABC will have a first-look deal in terms of network series, Hat Trick will be a free agent in the first-run syndication arena, although the company would presumably develop for its studio partner, if such a deal comes through. The deal with ABC was cut by Endeavor.

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