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Granada looks to team up

Blighty co. proposes linking with U.S. net

U.K.-based Granada Television hopes to create a new template with U.S. programmers that would change the way series are co-produced between the two countries.

Meeting with reporters Wednesday — the same day Granada and fellow ITV company Carlton agreed to a $4 billion merger in the U.K. — Granada Content chief executive Simon Shaps said he would like to create programming that would be jointly produced and licensed by a U.K. channel and U.S. network.

“The economics make sense,” Shaps said. “We’re closer together in terms of the sensibility of our viewers. There’s a recognition that common ideas work in both the U.S. and the U.K.”

Shaps said he believed such a program would cast “premium talent” recognizable in both countries and revolve around a subject deemed interesting by both nations.

Granada produces a wide range of telepics, non-fiction series and miniseries for U.S. outlets such as TLC, the Travel Channel and National Geographic Channel.

Meanwhile, Granada’s domestic arm, Granada Entertainment USA, has focused on adapting U.K. series for U.S. auds, such as NBC’s short-lived version of “Cold Feet.”

Granada Entertainment USA also produces Fox’s upcoming comedy “The Grubbs” along with Universal TV and 20th Century Fox TV. The sitcom, which originally had a fall bow but now won’t show up until at least midseason, is a remake of Granada’s hit U.K. comedy “The Royle Family.”

Granada Entertainment USA prexy Antony Root said the company hopes to develop more original projects to pitch around town; like last year, the unit has around five projects in the development hopper.

Meanwhile, the Granada execs said production will begin as scheduled on a U.S. version of hit British reality series “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!”

“All systems are go,” Shaps said.

CBS and Survivor Prods. had sent a cease-and-desist letter to ABC and Granada, arguing that the show was a “Survivor” ripoff and asking both sides to drop the project.

“(‘Celebrity’) is not about survival and elimination,” said Paul Jackson, director of international formats and entertainment at Granada. “It starts from a different place, closer to ‘The Osbournes.’ ”

Other Granada reality formats to be pitched on this side of the pond include “Fight School,” which flies 10 martial experts to Beijing and puts them through various challenges; “Living Like Royalty,” which takes blue collar contestants and trains them to act like the royal family; and a new version of “Pop Stars” that pits a boy band against a girl band.

Shaps said it was too soon to tell how a united Granada/Carlton might be able to leverage its way into the U.S. marketplace, given the lengthy approval process necessary before the sides officially merge.

“The merger, if it goes ahead, will create Europe’s leading commercial broadcaster,” Shaps said.

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