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Pact underscores Lion's effort to expand its smallscreen production biz

MGM and BermanBraun have pacted to develop content across broadcast and cable, it was announced today. Multiyear, exclusive pod deal encompasses both scripted and unscripted programming and also includes a first-look film component.

“We are excited to be in business with BermanBraun, who are proven producers in the television industry and will be integral to our strategy of developing high quality programming,” said MGM chief exec Gary Barber. “Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun have made an indelible impact in the television and digital space by producing innovative content seen over multiple platforms. We are thrilled to partner with them to bring new TV content to our broadcast partners around the globe.”

BermanBraun’s move to MGM amounts to a vote of confidence in the Lion’s future from principals Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. The pair had been under a deal with NBCUniversal since launching their shingle in early 2007.

Berman noted that Barber had met with the duo a few years ago to learn more about their extensive digital content operations, which are a separate entity from the activity covered under the new MGM deal. But the exec was impressed with what he saw at BermanBraun — and vice versa.

“We think they have a great vision for where they want (MGM) to be in the next few years,” Berman said. “It’s a place where Lloyd and I felt like we could be true partners.”

Indeed, the deal is a significant get for MGM’s TV arm, which has ramped up its slate over the last year with programs including History’s “Vikings” and FX’s forthcoming adaptation of “Fargo.” BermanBraun’s current roster of shows include NBC’s summer series “Camp,” HGTV’s “Garage Sale Wars” and Showtime’s “Polyamory,” and the shingle has feature films lined up at studios including Ben Stiller’s “Rentaghost” and an adaptation of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

Getting film projects off the ground is a big priority for BermanBraun, and MGM is a place where they can make “headway.” Doing more shows for cable is another focus, Berman added.

Roma Khanna, prez of MGM Television Group and Digital, hopes to “re-energize” the studio with “aggressive growth” in TV to complement its rebound in film.

“When you’ve got two back to back billion-dollar films with ‘Skyfall’ and ‘The Hobbit,’ that’s inspiration and a challenge for anyone,” Khanna said. “What we really want to do is have that same level of quality, and on the TV side, we were starting from a much blanker slate.”

The decision to team with BermanBraun was an easy one, according to Khanna, since the MGM and BermanBraun execs share similar perspectives on incorporating digital into traditional models of TV content production.

“Gail and Lloyd are extremely creative and talented execs,” Khanna said. “They have a very strong digital side to both of their brains, and they think in an innovative way about content and business models, be it with co-production and straight to series orders, or multi-screen experiences.”

While other studios rake in creatives with pod deals every few months, Khanna said MGM is honing its energy on the BermanBraun pact and near-term goals.

“This is our first and our only [deal] right now, and our focus is going to be creating value with the BermanBraun team,”  Khanna added. “We want to get some success under our belt.”

Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.

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