MONTREAL — Veteran film and TV exec Robert Cooper has teamed with Canuck TV network CTV to form Landscape Entertainment, a new production company that will create film, TV and Internet programming.
Landscape has already inked a deal with NBC to develop at least three miniseries over the next three years. Cooper also said the company is in advanced negotiations to sign distribution deals with a Hollywood film studio and a U.S. cable network.
CTV will invest approximately C$49 million ($34 million) in the venture over the first three years, with an initial cash outlay of $5 million and the balance on an as-needed basis. To start out, the company will be a 50-50 partnership between CTV and Cooper, but Cooper is in negotiations to bring on board one or more new partners, and CTV will eventually bring its ownership level down to 33%.
Landscape will be a Canadian company with its head office in Toronto, giving it access to the country’s public-funding system. Cooper will continue to be based in Los Angeles.
Cooper, who originally hails from Montreal, was most recently head of production at DreamWorks, where he oversaw the production of a number of pics, including “American Beauty.” Prior to his stint at DreamWorks, he was president of TriStar Pictures, and, before that, he was president of HBO Pictures, where he helped launch a number of high-profile films, notably “Barbarians at the Gate,” “And the Band Played On,” and “The Burning Season.” He founded production company Citadel Entertainment in 1978, which was later sold to HBO.
The creation of Landscape comes a week after Canadian telephone giant BCE announced an unsolicited $1.6 billion takeover bid for CTV (Daily Variety, Feb. 28). CTV execs said the deal with Cooper is unrelated to the BCE bid and is the result of six months of negotiations.
Starting up a production company was essential for CTV to remain competitive, said CTV executive vice president Trina McQueen. CanWest Global, CTV’s main rival in Canada, already has a production arm in CanWest Entertainment, created via the acquisition of Toronto-based producer Fireworks Entertainment.
“Production is something almost every broadcaster is looking at these days,” said McQueen. “Part of it is cost control, part of it is about new media, but it’s also about creative influence. One of the keys to this relationship is that both CTV and Bob Cooper feel very strongly about television being driven by writers. It’s also a profitable revenue stream.”
CTV will have a first look at Landscape’s television productions, but they can also be placed with other Canadian broadcasters. From the initial production slate, CTV expects to receive a one-hour drama series and two or three TV movies. CTV will continue to buy programs from other indie producers.
“It’s an opportune time to build a company that develops and produces quality, high-concept entertainment events,” Cooper said. “Landscape will not only be a hothouse for writer-driven multiplatform projects, but also a true creative partner for U.S. and international entertainment companies. In light of my 15-year business relationship with (CTV CEO) Ivan Fecan, this partnership with CTV will allow us to collaborate on a new level. At the same time, Landscape will be able to finance its own development and enjoy the benefits of a major distribution outlet.”
Cooper said the company will make an announcement about its Internet plans within the next few weeks.