Production unit nabs deal with NBC
Former webheads Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun are once again flexing their network muscle.In an unprecedented pact, the duo’s BermanBraun shingle has sealed a deal with NBC to program a nonscripted block of programming. And they’ve partnered with nonfiction producer Thom Beers (“Deadliest Catch”) to come up with the shows. As the former Fox Entertainment prexy and ABC TV Entertainment Group chairman, respectively, Berman and Braun already know a thing or two about creating primetime skeds. Now, BermanBraun will program two and possibly three hours of the Peacock’s lineup — immediately making the new company one of the most prolific indies in primetime. BermanBraun, which launched in January, already has a first-look deal in place at NBC Universal, which is funding (at $6 million) overhead and a development fund; this arrangement comes out of that deal. As part of the programming block, NBC has already ordered three series from BermanBraun and Beers’ Original Prods. label and has at least three more from the companies on tap. Actual series concepts are still under wraps. But it’s believed that the shows will be similar in concept to “Deadliest Catch,” which earned raves (and an Emmy nom) for its gritty depiction of deep sea fishing in the Bering Sea, as well as many of Beers’ other shows, including “Ice Road Truckers.” Most logical spot for the block would appear to be Friday or Saturday night, where all of the nets have struggled in recent years. But Sunday could also be a possible home as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” franchise ends in January. How long the block will remain is understood to be contingent upon ratings results. NBC reserves the right to break up the block and move shows to different nights if it makes sense strategically. Such a deal may be unusual in primetime, but the nets already farm out their kidcentric Saturday-morning programming blocks to outside producers, who are involved in ad sales. BermanBraun and Original will not be so involved. Also, there is no specific product-integration component to the deal. The programming block pact with BermanBraun and Original also reps the latest attempt by NBC U — under NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chairs Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff — to change the primetime business model, having secured so many hours of low-cost fare. A onetime Turner exec, Beers has had an extremely successful run of late in his role as Original CEO and exec producer. Besides “Deadliest Catch,” company is well known for its role in Discovery Channel hits such as “Monster Garage,” “Monster House” and “Biker Build-Off.” Original has projects in the works for History Channel (“Axe Men”), Spike TV (“LA Port”), National Geographic Channel and WE (“Twister Sisters”). BermanBraun is about to launch its first series, the ABC gamer “Duel,” which bows with a weeklong strip later this month. The Alphabet has also ordered six episodes of “Section 8,” a sci-fi thriller from Zak Penn and Michael Karnow. Company’s projects at NBC include “Mafia Wives,” from scribe Lynda LaPlante, and a comedic entry from Jane Bussmann.