Grade sets up development fund

ITV boss calls for new programs

LONDON — IITV executive chairman Michael Grade re-affirmed the commercial broadcaster’s commitment to finding new and innovative programming ideas with the creation of a multimillion-pound development fund for independent producers.

Speaking Thursday at the annual Rights Lab conference, organized by producers’ association Pact, Grade called on producers to make ITV their first port of call, singling out drama as a key genre where the broadcaster is focusing its efforts.

“Priority No. 1 for ITV1 is to regain our supremacy in the 9 p.m. drama slot,” Grade told delegates. “We need returnable series. We want the next ‘Life on Mars.’ ”

The fund’s monetary value is not yet known, but Grade indicated it was “several million.”

Grade, who jumped ship from the BBC to ITV earlier this year, also reiterated his desire to end the web’s days of picking up copycat formats, like the much-maligned reality disappointment “Celebrity Love Island.”

“What I want is for ITV1 be leading the field,” he said. “We need to come up with the next generation of world-beating programs.”

ITV topper pointed to new drama/ comedy “Moving Wallpaper,” from Kudos Film & Television, as an example of the kind of projects ITV is looking for as it looks to turn around its ratings decline.

“We have to be the place where the best ideas come first,” he added.

The new development fund will put ITV on a level footing with the BBC and Channel 4, both of which already offer indie producers development money, and Grade was also keen to assure the audience that there is no favoritism for ITV’s in-house production arm.

Last year, 50% of ITV’s original commissions were from indie producers, representing an investment of some £240 million ($473 million). That num-ber could be higher this year said Grade, if producers come to ITV with the right projects.

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