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Cohen, BBCWW, Lookout form funder

BBC Worldwide (BBCWW), Danny Cohen’s Access Entertainment and UK prodco Lookout Point have formed an initiative that aims to adopt a straight-to-series finance model for global scripted TV series.

Danny Cohen

Danny Cohen

The commissioning entity – known as Benchmark Television – will offer leading writers and producers a “fast track” route to production with an independent funding model, enabling them to have their work ordered without first securing backing from a network or platform.

Benchmark will not produce directly but will instead commission from established third-party producers and leading writers with full straight-to-series funding underwritten by BBCWW and Access.

The initiative is set to greenlight a major series in the coming months and early conversations with global talent are already underway.

A group chaired by Cohen – who joined Len Blavatnik’s Access as president after stepping down as the BBC’s TV chief in 2015 – will develop, select and oversee the commissioning process, with global rights managed in partnership with BBCWW.

The group consists of Helen Jackson, chief content officer at BBCWW, and Simon Vaughan and Faith Penhale, joint CEOs of War & Peace prodco Lookout Point, which will be responsible for the day-to-day management of Benchmark.

Simon Vaughan

Simon Vaughan

“Now is the right time to give the world’s foremost writers and producers another way to get their series made with maximum freedom and support. We are offering a new and dynamic model that will benefit talent, networks and audiences,” Vaughan said.

In a statement, the group said its commercial model was “designed to give the creators and producers significant rights ownership,” as well as making it attractive to production partners, including those owned by major studios and media groups.

Cohen said the “ground-breaking partnership” would hunt “premium-quality projects and provide the resources to get blue-chip drama into production for audiences to enjoy around the world.”

Speaking at the International Drama Summit as part of C21’s Content London last month, Cohen said Access was looking to explore a variety of funding models and was hoping to invest “several hundreds of millions of dollars” in scripted content over the next few years.

“We can be very flexible in the way we invest at Access. I am looking to invest directly into companies, take equity in companies and am looking at deficient financing in television – and possibly even fully financing some television production,” added Cohen, who as BBC TV chief previously said the UK pubcaster was struggling to compete with the spending power of SVoD services like Netflix.

Cohen also said he was interested in exploring new financing models and opportunities for how his firm could support writers and IP creators.

Helen Jackson

Helen Jackson

“With the exception of Netflix and Amazon, it’s very hard for individual broadcasters to fully fund premium drama, and that puts a lot more power in the hands of IP creators to build financial models that work to their advantage,” he explained.

“I am very interested in those new models and how they might disrupt the industry and how we can support writers, IP creators and companies to finance their productions and give them more control of their rights.”

Since joining Access, Cohen’s early investments have included a film deal with House Productions and a play for Broadway. He will also be executive producer of the next Fantastic Beasts movie, from JK Rowling.

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