Ten months ago, Sony’s Andrea Wong, arrived at her new desk in London’s Soho, a district favored by the local TV biz.
To say the former exec at ABC and Lifetime topper hit the ground running would be an understatement based on what she had already achieved in Blighty.
It has been just over a year since Wong, who is giving a keynote address at Mipcom, was tapped as Sony Picture Television’s president of international production and appointed international prexy, reporting directly to the studio’s chairman and CEO Michael Lynton.
In March Sony acquired a majority stake in U.K. reality shingle Silver River, founded by format queen Daisy Goodwin, who came close to selling “How Clean Is Your House” when Wong was running alternative programming at ABC.
SPT followed this up in August by buying U.K. drama specialist Left Bank, created by Andy Harries, the British producer of the Oscar-winning “The Queen.”
Left Bank’s recent TV skeins include an English-language version of the Swedish detective “Wallander” and the Sky-Cinemax thriller “Strike Back.”
“This year we laid down the base, got the right team in place and upped our presence in the U.K.,” says Wong, who was at ABC when “Dancing With the Stars” became a franchise hit. The series has British roots, of course, being adapted for the States from the BBC show “Strictly Come Dancing.”
By investing in two British companies with the potential to create returning hit series in both nonscripted (Silver River) and scripted (Left Bank), Wong is sensibly hedging her bets.
In the reality arena, Wong thinks the time is long overdue for a new global blockbuster that reinvents the wheel.
“The unscripted genre is ripe for reinvention,” Wong says. “That means a surge in creativity that goes in a completely different direction to what’s on TV right now. I can’t tell you what that is yet, but it happened when I was sitting in my job at ABC.
“All these things you couldn’t have even thought of were dreamed up and started to be developed and created. I think we’re ripe for that again. There haven’t been a lot of global hits launched in the last five years. Every genre goes through ebbs and flows in creativity.”
That is undeniably true, but the good news for Wong, who oversees 18 shingles in 15 countries, is that as shows such as “The Killing” have demonstrated these days that hits have a habit of coming out of left field.
“When I was at ABC I took Belgium format ‘The Mall,’ ” she recalls. “I don’t think another global format has come out of Belgium since, but you never know where the next one is going to come from. We will continue to acquire companies both here and across the world. It is about being opportunistic. It’s about being in business with the right people. When you find great creative people you want to be in a partnership with them.”
She declines to comment on the levels of investment required by Sony as the spending spree on local shingles looks set to continue.
Nonetheless, Wong implies that the studio is prepared to dig deep.
“Sony is very supportive of us building our business so they will do everything they can to give us the resources they need to do that,” she says.
Wong’s team was bolstered in June by the arrival of All3Media’s head of international production Wayne Garvie as chief creative officer (international), and by the upping of Donna Cunningham, to exec VP of international operations. They manage an existing catalog of proven hits owned either through the Sony brand or the shingles acquired before Wong came on board.
Seasoned shows such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” which still airs in 86 territories, and the sitcom “Everyone Loves Raymond,” a strong performer in the Middle East and Russia, continue to attract auds and advertisers.
In Russia, adaptations of all the original “Everybody Loves Raymond” scripts have been exhausted. Scribes are now busy writing original episodes for the Russian market.
Meanwhile, Wong is beginning to concentrate more firepower on other emerging markets, such as Turkey and India.
“We need to know where the opportunities lie a year from now — five and 10 years from now — and setting a strategy that takes advantage of that,” says Wong.