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BBC Worldwide, Access, Lookout Point Launch Benchmark

Danny Cohen (above), Helen Jackson, Simon Vaughan and Faith Penhale to oversee commissioning process

BBC Worldwide, Access Entertainment, and Lookout Point have come together to set up Benchmark Television, a new venture that will be able to greenlight high-end drama series before a network or platform has been attached.

The initiative is designed to give high-profile talent “a new route to production with an independent funding model,” the partner companies said in a statement. Rather than produce directly, Benchmark will commission from established producers and writers, with full straight-to-series funding provided by BBC Worldwide, the U.K. broadcaster’s commercial arm, and Access Entertainment, headed by Danny Cohen, the former director of BBC Television. The venture will allow producers “to have their scripted television series greenlit without first securing backing from any network or platform.”

The aim is to greenlight a major series in the coming months. Cohen told Variety that meetings with recognized talent in Britain have already begun; he and his colleagues are scheduled to travel to the U.S. later this month for a series of meetings in Los Angeles.

“We wanted to try to create a model to attract the world’s best talent,” Cohen said. That includes offering producers and creators greater control over their work and significant rights ownership, a formula that Benchmark’s founding companies said would “be attractive to a wide variety of production partners, including those owned by major studios and media groups.”

Cohen, who recently joined industrialist Len Blavatnik as president of Access Entertainment, will chair a group composed of Helen Jackson, chief content officer of BBC Worldwide, and Simon Vaughan and Faith Penhale, joint CEOs of Lookout Point. The group will develop, select and oversee the commissioning process, with global rights managed in partnership with BBC Worldwide. Lookout Point will be responsible for Benchmark’s day-to-day management and operation.

“Now is the right time to give the world’s foremost writers and producers another way to get their series made with maximum freedom and support,” Vaughan said.

Blavatnik, founder and chairman of Access Industries, said: “This innovative partnership will finance and produce world-class scripted television for audiences around the world. Access Entertainment plans to work with the world’s very best writers and producers over the coming years, and invest significant capital in television production.”

Added Jackson: “Ensuring that creative talent are given every opportunity to produce their very best work is at the heart of this new partnership.”

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