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Ex-BBC drama chief Ben Stephenson to set up premium scripted label as part of ITVS

Former BBC drama controller Ben Stephenson, currently head of television at JJ Abrams’ television and film production company Bad Robot Productions, is launching a transatlantic scripted label within ITV Studios.

Ben Stephenson

Stephenson’s outfit will be based in London and Los Angeles and will focus on high-end premium drama.

Since 2015, he has been developing and executive producing Bad Robot’s television slate in California. His credits include sci-fi title Westworld, Emmy-nominated LoveCraft Country, both at HBO; Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story with Julianne Moore and Little Voice at Apple; Castlerock at Hulu; UFO at Showtime; and Challenger at Netflix, as well as forthcoming series My Glory Was That I had Such Friends and Presumed Innocent at Apple.

Bad Robot told C21 it is elevating Rachel Rusch Rich from executive VP to a new role of president, following Stephenson’s departure. J J Abrams said: “We wish Ben the very best in his new endeavour and appreciate all he has brought to Bad Robot.

“Though his wit, warmth and creativity will be missed, we are thrilled to elevate Rachel Rusch Rich from exec VP to her new role as president of Bad Robot TV. Rachel and her team will continue to oversee our robust slate of projects, working with our incredible creative partners.”

Previously, Stephenson spent nine years at the BBC where he held the role of controller of drama commissioning, overseeing 450 hours of drama a year. His credits there include creating Luther, Sherlock, The Fall, Line of Duty, Happy Valley, Top of the Lake and Peaky Blinders.

The label will have teams based in both the UK and the US, with Stephenson splitting his time between the two. Distribution will be led by ITV Studios. In LA, he will be supported by ITV Studios’ US studio infrastructure under the leadership of Philippe Maigret.

Stephenson said: “I have had the most amazing time at Bad Robot and will be forever grateful to JJ, Katie [McGrath, co-CEO], Brian [Weinstein, president and COO] and the whole team at Bad Robot, as well as our partners at Warners. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I have truly never learnt so much or worked with such kind and talented partners. I will miss everyone profoundly. But now is the time to forge my own company and I am very grateful to Julian [Bellamy, MD of ITV Studios] and the whole team at ITV Studios for supporting my ambition to create a genuinely international company in the US and the UK.”

Bellamy said: “Ben is one of the most talented drama executives in the business. His fingerprints are across some of the best, most memorable drama series in global television, from Westworld to Sherlock. I’m delighted ITV Studios will be Ben’s partner for his next big chapter – an ambitious new transatlantic venture dedicated to producing truly world-class drma.”

Stephenson is the latest drama creator to join ITV Studios, with those welcomed to the group over the past few years including Nicola Shindler and her Quay Street Productions; Dominic Treadwell Collins and his firm Happy Prince; Patrick Spence and David P Davis, whose label 5Acts sits within Spence’s studio; Arturo Diaz with Cattleya Producciones; Moritz Poulter with Windlight Pictures; and Tony To and Dan Sackheim with Bedrock Entertainment.

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