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Endemol Shine North America Chiefs Talk ‘Black Mirror’ Adaptation for U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. rendition of “Black Mirror,” the British sci-fi series that has been a buzzy hit for Netflix, is in the works, the new leaders of Endemol Shine North America said Wednesday at the Real Screen confab.

The keynote session at the Washington Hilton marked the first major public appearance by Cris Abrego and Charlie Corwin since they were tapped co-CEOs and co-chairmen of Endemol Shine North America.

Corwin confirmed that “there is a plan” regarding a U.S. version of the “Twilight Zone”-esque series created by Charlie Brooker and produced by Annabel Jones for Endemol U.K. He declined to elaborate other than to say that Brooker and Jones “have really touched on something and I agree – we need more.”

Abrego and Corwin, formerly heads of Endemol North America, were tapped to lead the Stateside operation of the globally minded production powerhouse formed in October through the merger of Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media. The combined company’s slate of shows includes “The Biggest Loser,” “Big Brother,” “American Idol,” “MasterChef” and “Hell on Wheels.”

Developing a U.S. spin on “Black Mirror” is in keeping with the business model of mining program formats that travel well. Both Shine Group and Endemol were in the hunt for global franchises, which is one reason why Shine parent 21st Century Fox and Endemol parent Apollo Global Management decided to tie the knot in a joint venture.

With audiences now experiencing entertainment in multiple ways, Endemol Shine is “uniquely positioned to succeed in this new medium paradigm,” said Corwin. The firm’s global scale, independence, ability to deficit finance shows and massive library of intellectual property are just some of its advantages, he told the group.

Session moderator Brian Stelter, CNN correspondent and host of “Reliable Sources,” invited the pair to frame the key issues facing the industry and their personal perspectives. “Is there too much television, simply too much inventory for the amount of hours that people can watch?” he asked.

If the question relates to the broadcast network primetime reality genre, it is indeed a crowded space, Abrego agreed. “But for us as content creators, there is nowhere near too many great shows out there for people to watch,” he said.

As for digital initiatives from the firm, Corwin said the U.S. subsidiary wants to be on “every platform.” That means aggressive growth from Endemol Beyond, the firm’s new multichannel premium web of international and local channels across platforms such as YouTube and Yahoo. They said Endemol Beyond hopes to join the ranks of Netflix, Amazon and Hulu while also working more closely with them.

Corwin referred to Endemol Beyond as the firm’s “fledgling over-the-top play.” He said it marks an important new venture for Endemol, enabling it to go directly to its auds. But doing so will not lessen its commitment to work with every other over-the-top provider as well as every other broadcast network and cable around the world, he said.

Two other key growth areas for the new firm are live events and scripted programs. Its successful entry in the former was the recent New Year’s Eve special hosted by rapper Pitbull on Fox. The show was “very exciting for us,” said Corwin. “We want to take talent like that across all platforms.”

The duo said that greater emphasis on scripted product is a natural for the firm, especially with the depth of IP from its global parent company.

“We’re going to take every advantage of that to bring amazing shows from around the world to American audiences,” said Corwin. Examples include Shine’s crime drama for FX, “The Bridge,” and Fox’s “Gracepoint,” a rendition of U.K. series “Broadchurch.”

Neither of those Yank adaptations were commercially successful, but that hasn’t deterred Endemol Shine from pursuing other formats. With the heat that “Black Mirror” generated simply from word of mouth on Netflix, a U.S. version was all but inevitable. “Mirror” creator Brooker has previously said he would be the showrunner on any U.S. series rendition. (Robert Downey Jr.’s Team Downey banner optioned the feature film rights to the “Black Mirror” episode “The Entire History of You” in 2013.)

“Black Mirror” is among nearly two dozen new series prospects in the works at the enlarged company. The North American unit also has its own wholly original scripted shows, including DirecTV’s “Kingdom” and AMC’s “Hell on Wheels.”

Corwin conceded that the company’s own plans might be viewed as a threat to existing broadcasters, both network and cable. “But we are all getting into each other’s business,” he said, citing efforts of others to build inhouse studios, a potential threat to indie studios. “We’ve got to be good partners,” he said.

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