BBC to ramp up co-productions

Drama chief denies L.A. rumors

LONDON — The BBC’s drama topper Jane Tranter is poised to roll out a more ambitious co-production strategy as tight budgets begin to bite at home.

Tranter, who denied she was about to move to a new high profile job in the U.S., said her “ultimate ambition” for this strategy would be a show that bows in a host of countries simultaneously.

She said: “I want to make a series that launches in dozens of countries all at the same time, but has something to say to the ordinary man or woman on the street in every one.

“That works on a personal as well as universal level, that manages to feel both local and global.”

In the past Tranter, who has been credited with spearheading the revival of BBC drama with fare such as “Doctor Who,” “Life on Mars” and “Cranford,” has worked with U.S. partners including HBO.

But speaking in London Monday at an event organized by the Royal Television Society, she acknowledged there were creative and practical problems in making shows with U.S. producers.

“Working with more international partners poses a real challenge for us,” she said. “Is there a feeling that somehow a show does not have enough breadth?”

Then there is the practicality of the “BBC hour,” which is 60 minutes due to the lack of commercial breaks and the “network hour,” 45-minutes long when the ads are taken out — although U.S. cable works on the BBC model.

One possible solution could involve shooting 60-minute long episodes for the U.K. version and putting that version online in the U.S.

Tranter said: “This is a practical challenge that can be overcome so long as there is enough willingness — and there is enough willingness.”

In recent weeks there have been widespread rumors that Tranter, who oversees BBC Films and acquisitions as well as drama, is planning to move to Los Angeles, where there were reports she was looking at schools for her children.

But she denied point blank that she is preparing for an immediate job change.

“For the record, I am not about to leave and go and work in the U.S. You don’t get rid of me that quickly,” she told an audience drawn mainly from the U.K. TV drama community.

Asked if she had been offered a role with the pubcaster’s commercial arm BBC Worldwide, she added: “I can be very specific. I am not about to leave to go and take up a job in the U.S. with anybody. How can I be clearer?”

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