TalkbackThames cuts back staff

CEO Lorraine Heggessey recently ankled

LONDON — Troubled U.K. shingle TalkbackThames, whose CEO Lorraine Heggessey recently ankled, is planning to pinkslip a fifth of its staff.

TalkbackThames, hit by the loss of long-running cop show “The Bill,” has launched a consultation with its workforce over a move to reduce the total headcount of 150 by around 30.

The producer, owned by RTL and with close links to sister company FremantleMedia, indicated it was also preparing to increase its investment in development by 75% over the next three years.

“We are experiencing very tough market conditions,” said Sara Geater, interim chief executive.

“In order to realign the business in a very competitive market, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that we are in the best position to grow the business.”

The company said it wants to work closer with FremantleMedia in future to “maximize the commercial value of its content.”

TalkbackThames is one of the U.K.’s biggest producers. Its shows include the U.K. version of “The Apprentice,” “Britain’s Got Talent” and “The X Factor,” made in tandem with Simon Cowell’s Syco.

But the decision earlier this year by ITV to cull “The Bill,” a fixture of the web’s schedules for more than 25 years, combined with a challenging economy, has forced Talkback to think hard about its future.

Last month, Heggessey, a high-profile and well-respected figure in U.K. TV circles, surprised industry folk by her sudden and unexplained departure from the shingle.

There has been speculation that Heggessey was being put under increasing pressure by FremantleMedia to generate more coin from her slate.

While “The Apprentice,” “Britain’s Got Talent” and, especially, “The X Factor,” all rate well in Blighty, TalkbackThames does not own the rights to the shows.

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