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The people, programmes and businesses that are changing the game.

BBC Studios sticks to the script with international alliances

Caroline Stone of BBC Studios outlines her scripted content strategy, which includes several of the company’s own labels and invested indies as well as partnerships with non-BBC platforms, and also showcases her new slate debuting at the event.

The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies is produced by Sister

The scripted arm of BBC Studios (BBCS) has significantly expanded its portfolio over the past year through acquisitions and investments. In addition to its own production units, the company now also houses six fully or majority-owned production labels.

Caroline Stone

These comprise Baby Cow (Chivalry, The Witchfinder), Clerkenwell Films (Somewhere Boy, The End of the F***ing World), House Productions (Sherwood, Brexit: An Uncivil War), Lookout Point (Gentleman Jack, Happy Valley), Sid Gentle Films (Killing Eve, Rain Dogs) and Firebird Pictures, which is currently in production on Wilderness for Amazon Studios and Wahala for BBC One.

“We’ve got an incredible slate of producers at the moment, and we feel very confident about the creative talent we now have within the company and what they’re developing, producing and creating,” says Caroline Stone, chief commercial officer of scripted at BBCS.

The company will be launching several new series from its labels at its BBC Studios Showcase event in London next week, including House Productions’ upcoming crime thriller Six Four. Inspired by Japanese author Hideo Yokoyama’s book of the same name, the 4×60’ series follows the investigation into a missing teenage girl and is being produced for ITV’s new streaming platform ITVX for debut this spring.

From Lookout Point comes Devil’s Peak, a 5×50’ adaptation of South African author Deon Meyer’s novel of the same name. The crime thriller, about a grieving father seeking justice for the murder of his son, is being produced for South African pay TV group MultiChoice’s flagship channel M-Net.

Kelly Miller

In the comedy space, Clerkenwell is producing True Love, a comedy-drama for Channel 4 featuring a cast in their late 60s and 70s, including Julie Walters. True Love is accompanied by Black Ops (6×30’), a comedy thriller produced by BBC Studios Comedy Productions and Mondo Deluxe for BBC One, about two police community support officers.

Also coming up is Boiling Point, a 5×60’ spin-off from the film of the same name, produced by Ascendant Fox, Matriarch Productions and Made Up Productions for the BBC. The series picks up six months after the 2021 film left off.

Also on the Showcase slate is five-part thriller The Following Events Are Based on a Pack of Lies, the first original series from sibling writing duo Penelope Skinner (Fresh Meat) and Ginny Skinner (Briony Hatch – a Graphic Novel). The show is produced by Sister for the BBC.

“What the audience wants are shows that feel like they have more hope in them, that have humour and warmth, but there’s always a need for crime, and true crime is a genre there is a real appetite for. There is more of a demand, particularly from broadcasters, for newer, different voices too and there’s still something about fantastical shows and franchises,” Stone says.

“There’s always a demand for British content – it’s always seen as a stamp of quality and seen as distinctive. Our on-screen talent and a lot of our writing/producing talent are known globally. There’s always going to be a demand for British content and that’s not going to change. There is a huge number of platforms now, so there is a lot of opportunity.”

Over in the US, Kelly Miller, senior VP of global partnerships for BBCS North and Latin America, is responsible for driving BBCS’s global original content business as well as bringing new British scripted content to US audiences.

Ncuti Gatwa as the new Doctor Who

Since joining in 2021, she has secured partnerships stateside for shows including Happy Valley (with AMC Networks), Rain Dogs (HBO) and Mood (BBC America). She also helped drive the deal with Disney last year for Doctor Who, which resulted in Disney+ becoming the exclusive home, excluding the UK and Ireland, for the upcoming season.

“This is a huge year for Doctor Who – the brand is celebrating 60 years. Across the BBC we saw an opportunity to work with [prodco] Bad Wolf and Russell T Davies to amplify the creative vision. To meet the ambition and scale of this new production, we explored a new partnership on a global scale and have found excellent synergy with Disney,” Miller says.

“BBCS has already had partnerships across the Disney ecosystem, with massive hits like Dancing With the Stars and Bluey, and expanding our relationship further with Doctor Who holds so much potential for mutual success. The Disney creative teams really understand the importance of this next step in the Doctor Who franchise and having Ncuti Gatwa onboard as the new Doctor is an exciting moment – he is undoubtedly a star on the rise and will be a household name in no time.”

The cast of the Boiling Point series

More recently, Miller secured a deal with The Roku Channel for the US rights to sci-fi comedy We Are Not Alone, marking BBCS’s first coproduction deal with an AVoD platform and its first deal with Roku for an original series.

Announced today, Miller has also struck a deal with Disney-owned streamer Hulu in the US for Daisy May Cooper’s comedy series Am I Being Unreasonable?, which premiered on the BBC last year.

BBCS is increasingly making shows for non-BBC channels and streamers too, such as Sid Gentle’s superhero series Extraordinary for Disney+, Clerkenwell’s upcoming real-life drama Baby Reindeer for Netflix and upcoming psychological thriller Constellation for Apple TV+. The latter show is from Turbine Studios, in which BBCS acquired a minority stake at the end of last year.

“As a BBC group, we have special relationships with BBC channels in the UK, but not every piece of content will be a programming fit for what they are looking to serve to the UK audience,” Miller says.

“Our ambition is always to find the most suitable home for any piece of content and any story that our talent seeks to tell. Business models are always changing and we’re ahead of the curve as to how we place shows in the market because of our nimbleness.”

Stone also hints that streaming services, with their deeper pockets, are a good fit for some of the “ambitious, big-budget” shows BBCS labels want to make, which traditional public broadcasters might struggle to fund, noting that BBCS has “a huge raft” of shows for the streamers coming up.

Comedy thriller Black Ops from BBCS Comedy Productions and Mondo Deluxe

With the threat of a writers’ strike looming in the US, Stone says it could provide an opportunity for non-US companies. “We’re very aware of it [the writers’ strike]. We’re always talking to the key buyers in the US and letting them know about the writers who are working with the producers we have and the shows in development,” she says.

“We would always hope, no matter if there’s a writers’ strike or not, that our shows would be front-and-centre and people would want to work with us. But most British companies and any company outside of the US might see that as an opportunity.”

Looking ahead to the rest of this year, Stone says BBCS will “do more of what we’re already doing,” finding stories that work commercially and critically and that can travel.

She adds: “We want to work with the best writers and the best producers. My job is very much finding the best pipeline we can to sell around the world, as well as helping our producers grow across the scripted space. In comedy and in drama, we want to be seen as the place where people want to go to find quality.”