Exec to steer biz strategy as banner ramps up with Starz deal

As BBC Worldwide Prods. expands the scope of its production activities for U.S. nets, the company has tapped industry vet Courtney Conte to serve as chief operating officer, tasked with steering business strategies.

Conte reports to Jane Tranter, who heads the L.A.-based unit of BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster’s commercial arm. BBC Worldwide Prods. made a splash Monday in announcing a wide-ranging partnership with Starz to co-produce hourlong series.

Deal comes as an outgrowth of the Starz’s relationship with BBC Worldwide Prods. on the drama “Torchwood: Miracle Day,” which marks the production company‘s first scripted series.

The pact gives Starz a strong partner to help finance series production. BBC Worldwide Prods. gets a dedicated U.S. network partner, though it remains free to work with other nets.

Programs will be co-developed by Starz and BBC Worldwide Prods., produced by the latter in partnership with Starz’s own original programming unit. Starz will distribute the shows in the U.S. and English-speaking Canada; BBC Worldwide will distribute internationally.

Starz prexy Chris Albrecht said the move was in keeping with the net’s new focus on premium original series.

“When I came to Starz, we determined that forging strong international partnerships would play centerstage in financing our ramp-up of dynamic original programming,” Albrecht said, calling the pact “a major step in that direction.”

Tranter said the group was “in a uniquely similar place to Starz” in that it, too, had become more focused on original programming.

The company made its first mark in the U.S. with the success of “Dancing With the Stars.” Longtime producer and Beeb exec Tranter relocated from the U.K. to L.A. in January 2009 to lead the unit and its expansion into scripted production. Conte’s role is key in helping Tranter manage the growing production slate and business deals with network buyers.

In the 1990s, Conte rose up the ranks at Carsey-Werner Co. to become co-prexy and head of production at the sitcom powerhouse. He later become part of the launch team of the Oxygen cabler (which was co-founded by Carsey-Werner) as senior veep of production.

At BBC Worldwide Prods., editorial direction for scripted series is overseen by Julie Gardner, while Elli Hakami and Izzie Pick spearhead editorial for unscripted business. Gardner, Hakami and Pick report to Tranter.

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