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Viacom preps Madrid, Manchester studios

Viacom International Studios (VIS) is to open new production centres in Madrid and Manchester as part of its ongoing expansion.

Jill Offman

Jill Offman will lead the expansion of VIS in the UK and Laura Abril will head the roll-out across Europe, building on the studio’s Latin American launch last year.

Since then, VIS Americas, headed by Federico Cuervo, has originated more than 900 hours of scripted, comedy, reality and kids’ live-action content out of six different production centres across the continent.

With a view to replicating this activity in other territories, Offman will now assume management of Viacom’s London-based production house, Elephant House Studios, which has been rebranded as VIS UK.

At the same time, VIS UK will open a new production office in Manchester to support its push to secure English-language commissions from third-party broadcasters and distributors based in the UK.

This will be in addition to the content it already produces locally for Viacom’s free-to-air broadcaster Channel 5 and its pay TV channels.

The UK production outfit is currently filming its first original production for a channel or platform not owned by Viacom, having been commissioned to produce a yet-to-be-revealed primetime factual series for ITV.

VIS UK general manager Joe McLusky and creative director Ed Taylor will now report to Offman who, as international brand head for both Comedy Central and Paramount Network, already has oversight of comedy and drama productions for Viacom in the UK.

The company is funding a number of scripted development projects with UK independent producers, including a remake of Bergerac from Artist Studios and a TV treatment of Amanda Craig’s novel Lie of the Land from Baby Cow.

Coinciding with Offman taking on her new UK responsibilities, Abril has been appointed to lead a planned VIS expansion across Western and Southern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa (MENA).

Based in Madrid, Abril will head an expanded team that, like VIS UK, has been tasked with securing commissions from pay TV operators, broadcasters and SVoD and social media platforms across these regions.

This will be in addition to her oversight of all production of multiplatform content for Viacom’s own branded networks in these territories.

David Lynn

The team in Madrid will also work with its colleagues at VIS Americas to jointly develop, produce and syndicate content across Western and Southern Europe and MENA.

For example, the VIS teams in Argentina and Spain have collaborated on the development of a Spanish-language TV remake of Alfred Hitchcock classic To Catch a Thief, which will be produced in Barcelona and Buenos Aires.

The VIS Americas team has also sold the format for Amar Despues de Amar (Love After Loving) to Alpha in Greece, TVI Portugal and Atresmedia in Spain. In addition, it has sold its series Homens and Borges to Amazon Prime and Netflix, respectively.

Viacom International Media Networks CEO David Lynn said: “Broadcasters and streamers are in a global arms race for the best content, which represents a significant growth opportunity for Viacom with our international studio capacity and in-built creative expertise, exemplified by Jill, Laura and Federico.

“As our competitors become more vertically integrated, Viacom is free to forge much deeper partnerships with all kinds of distributors internationally and for all types of content,” added Lynn.

The content sales division of the expanded and aligned VIS operation will be at the MipTV market in Cannes next week with a catalogue including Awesomeness film and TV titles, a range of scripted development projects, new factual series and formats created for Channel 5 and the latest titles and formats from Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.

Lynn is set to outline his growth strategy for VIS at the conference on April 9.

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