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Keshet’s Cachet Draws Top TV Execs to Innovation Confab in Jerusalem

TEL AVIV – Keshet Media Group, which for years has been at the forefront of Israel’s drive to become a global TV player, is pulling out all the stops in March for its third annual Innovation in Television confab in Jerusalem.

Top execs from HBO, Sony, AMC and more are expected in Israel’s capital city March 15-16 for the conference, which focuses on innovation in television production. Among the speakers on this year’s roster are HBO CEO Richard Pleper; ITV director of television Peter Fincham; Andrea Wong, Sony Pictures’ prexy of international Prods.; AMC Global prez Bruce Tuchman; MTV topper Stephen Friedman; and WME’s TV topper Rick Rosen. “The Affair” co-creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi will also be on hand.

The show of force from U.S. execs underscores the heat of the Israeli format biz in general and Keshet’s cachet in particular.

The confab will begin March 14 with the Israeli premiere of USA Network’s “Dig,” which was developed by Keshet and co-created by Gideon Raff (“Homeland,” “Prisoners of War”) and Tim Kring (“Heroes”). The show, a murder mystery set in modern-day Jerusalem but drawing upon the city’s ancient stones and conspiracies, will bow in the U.S. on March 5. The premiere will be followed by a conversation with both Raff and Jason Isaacs, who plays FBI agent Peter Connelly in the series.

Keshet, established in 1993, has created some of Israel’s most successful crossover content, including “Rising Star,” “Girlfri3nds” and “Homeland” predecessor “Prisoners of War.” The company launched the Innovation gathering three years ago in a bid, execs say, to encourage a conversation about disruption and out-of-the-box thinking in the TV marketplace.

“Everything we do at Keshet is innovative, and has an element of disruption,” says Alon Shtruzman, CEO of Keshet International, the company’s global distribution and production arm. “The existence of Keshet, an Israeli company that does so well in the world, is in itself a disruption.”

The confab is always held at Jerusalem’s historic British Mandate-period YMCA and co-hosted by Keshet CEO Avi Nir (pictured) and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. The two-day event features a blend of lectures, roundtables and networking mixers, always with an eye toward predicting what is coming next for TV.

Last year’s gathering, which was held a few months after “Rising Star” launched in Israel and broke reality-program records here, focused heavily on second-screen formats and cross-media platforms. This year, streaming platforms and new media will get plenty of attention.

“The TV environment is changing so rapidly and becoming so complicated and multilayered that there is a huge need to focus on innovation,” Shtruzman says. “We launched INTV as a conference and workshop focusing on innovation to allow people to exchange ideas and expose new technologies and trends … we want it to be a place to talk about the business, but from a disruptive angle.”

In Israel, Keshet – which shares broadcast time on the nation’s popular Channel 2 with fellow concessionaire Reshet – is the undisputed Goliath of programming. With Keshet Intl., which has local production outposts in Australia, the U.K. and Canada, the company is also a formidable force in tiny Israel’s global success as a producer of international television hits.

Keshet is not the only Israeli media group drawing big names to hobnob on their home turf. Dori Media last June hosted the International Emmys’ Academy Day in Jerusalem, and in December, local comedian Omri Marcus brought BBC’s Danny Cohen, “The Daily Show’s” Steve Bodow and a slew of other comedy talent to Jerusalem for a summit on comedy and political conflict.

Shtruzman said he isn’t concerned about whether or not INTV helps Keshet stay at the front of the Israeli television pack. He’s focused on growing Keshet’s footprint beyond Israel’s borders, as well as continuing to raise the nation’s profile in the global TV biz.

“Everyone wants to excel, and obviously we want to be the best. But we think about leadership in an Israeli context. As producers and creators, we want to be a leader worldwide,” he said.

He likens the story of Israeli television to that of the Israeli startup industry, which plowed its way into Silicon Valley in the 1990s and earned the Jewish State the nickname of “Start-Up Nation.” Any Israeli format that makes it internationally, he says, also helps Keshet, because it furthers the Israeli television brand.

“Keshet, Dori Media, Avi Armoza – we all share the same mission,” he said. “We want to make Israel a great place for TV content and build Israel’s name overseas. It’s not about being a leader in Israel, but being a leader worldwide.”

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