Touch of Grey brightens 20th

BGTV moves to Fox in 3-year pact

Indie powerhouse Brad Grey Television — the production shingle behind such hits as “The Sopranos” and “Just Shoot Me” — is setting up shop at 20th Century Fox Television.

BGTV has inked an exclusive three-year partnership deal with 20th and ended its relationship with Sony, where Grey’s banner had been based since 1999.

New deal calls for 20th to jointly produce projects with BGTV, with 20th covering all financial deficits involved in production of series picked up by the Big Six.

In exchange, 20th will get off-net distribution rights, with BGTV getting a chunk of any backend revenue. In addition, 20th will provide a development fund for BGTV and pay a portion of the company’s overhead. BGTV and 20th will jointly decide which projects to produce, thus giving 20th the ability to control its financial investment in BGTV skeins.

Deal makes BGTV exclusive to 20th for network primetime projects. For cable series, 20th has a first-look arrangement.

BGTV prexy Peter Traugett and development chief Susie Fitzgerald will remain in their posts, and most other staffers are expected to remain with the company in some way.BGTV will have access to 20th’s back-office departments, such as business affairs; it’s unclear how Grey plans to take advantage of those offerings.

While BGTV had a much larger development fund at Sony, the new pact could prove to be far more profitable for Grey.

That’s because rather than setting up a joint partnership — where hits and failures are tallied up, and the net profit split between both companies — the 20th deal rewards BGTV in success without penalizing it for failure. It also gives BGTV access to 20th’s considerable roster of talent.

Twentieth Century Fox TV prexy Dana Walden — who put together the BGTV deal with fellow prexy Gary Newman and Fox Entertainment Group topper Sandy Grushow — said bringing BGTV into the studio’s fold will help it continue its position as a diversified supplier to all six nets.

“20th is going to be incredibly enhanced with a talent magnet like Brad Grey in our organization,” Walden told Daily Variety. “He’s clearly a really smart guy who has incredible taste and a strong sense of what works both commercially and critically.”

What’s more, with 20th and other studios dramatically scaling back on overall deals with scribes, BGTV– which is linked to the Brillstein-Grey management banner– will help the studio land writers for one-shot projects.

“When we’re out there competing for one-shot deals, and writers are weighing all their options, we believe Brad and his team are going to be a really strong draw,” Walden said.

Several studios, including Sony and some network in-house production units, discussed doing a deal with BGTV. Grey said he ultimately chose to ink with 20th because of its breadth.

“In this environment, you have to have great strength and leverage behind you,” he said. “Nobody’s been more aggressive than 20th. And with the assets they have and our team, I’m very optimistic about the future.”

Key to the deal is the fact that BGTV doesn’t have to worry about carrying any deficits for network shows it produces. It does have to get 20th’s approval before moving forward with series, but both parties expect a collaborative relationship.

Indeed, Grey said he and 20th are on the same page when it comes to controlling costs.

“Without sustained profitability, there can’t be sustained creativity,” he said. “We try to be mindful of the business concerns and run the company in a responsible way.”

The 20th deal reps the fourth home for BGTV in the past 10 years. Before Sony, company was based at Universal; it had previously been linked to ABC.

In addition to “The Sopranos” and “Just Shoot Me,” BGTV produces the ABC hit “According to Jim.” Its previous successes include “The Larry Sanders Show” and “NewsRadio.” “Sanders” and “The Sopranos” are two of the most critically well-reviewed shows ever.

BGTV has five pilots in contention for next fall, including “My Big Loud Greek Family” for CBS and “What Leonard Comes Home To,” a co-production with Touchstone for ABC.