In a deal that marks the company’s first push into longform TV production, Granada Entertainment USA is close to finalizing a deal with Showtime to co-finance at least 13 telefilms for the cabler.
Seven of the films will fall under the banner of “Great American Novels of the 20th Century,” and each pic will have a budget of $3 million or $4 million, sources said.
Half of the pictures will be produced by Showtime and half by Granada, but all will be distributed internationally through Granada’s BRITE distribution arm, and the two companies will share creative control on all the projects.
It’s not clear exactly how Granada and Showtime will divide the production costs, although one source said each side would pay roughly half.
Granada had no comment, and Showtime said the deal is still being negotiated. However the two companies have been hammering out the pact for nearly eight months, sources said, and they are expected to announce a deal as early as next week.
The deal is coming just days after it became known that Granada Film is negotiating with MGM for an output deal to co-finance about eight feature films a year (Daily Variety, March 9). Coincidentally, MGM has an output deal with Showtime for TV movies and series.
The fact that Showtime is doing a series of films on great American novels is the latest sign that the cabler is pushing hard into high-quality original programming that can compete with HBO for Emmy nods. Showtime has previously aired films of that caliber, such as “12 Angry Men,” and other cablers like USA Network are moving in that direction with telefilms such as “Moby Dick.”
Showtime and Granada haven’t yet agreed on which American novels will be adapted, although Granada is hoping to pick projects with strong international appeal. Granada is currently negotiating for the rights to adapt works from Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton and John Steinbeck, among others.
The company also is hoping to attract great contempo British and American writers to adapt the American novels with the most meaning to them.
Aside from the American novel telefilms, some of the other Showtime projects co-financed by Granada will be films already in development at Showtime that are of particular interest to Granada’s British and European constituency.
Other pics will be developed in the United Kingdom by Granada Films, headed by Pippa Cross, or by Granada Intl. drama, topped by Antony Root. Also, films will be developed by Granada Entertainment USA’s new longform division, headed by Jon Cowan and Robert Rovner.
The Showtime deal is being spearheaded by Scott Siegler, president of Granada Entertainment USA, and Jerry Offsay, president of programming at Showtime Networks Inc.
Aside from the Showtime deal, Granada’s domestic longform division has sold a two-hour telefilm to ABC called “A Life Destroyed,” which will be executive produced and written by Cowan and Rovner, based on their original concept.
Granada also is working on projects with writers Gerald DiPego (“Phenomenon”), Brian Taggert (“V: The Final Battle”) and John Robert Bensink (“A Whisper Kills”).
Granada Entertainment USA is the U.S. production arm of British media conglom Granada. Formed just last year, the company produced the critically acclaimed but now-canceled ABC drama “Cracker,” based on the British series of the same name.
Granada is developing several other network pilots in addition to the longform projects.