As the U.S. version of hit British drama Skins this week debuted to record ratings for MTV, PTC outrage and a Taco Bell advertiser defection, the CEO of the U.K. company behind the series has been in Los Angeles laying groundwork for far bigger impact on the U.S. TV landscape.
All3Media CEO Steve Morrison, the former Granada honcho, is in Hollywood for a marathon of meetings with top network execs to talk about All3Media's expansion both here and globally. Since forming the outfit, which now comprises what Morrison calls a "federation" of 20 production companies, seven years ago, All3Media has grown into the largest independent TV production group in the U.K. It also has a presence in Germany, New Zealand, Holland and Australia. Now he wants to take on America.
All3Media late last year brought former CBS exec Nancy Tellem on as the first U.S.-based board member. In addition to Skins, two other scripted U.S. series launched this month based on All3Media-controlled shows: Shameless on Showtime and House of Anubis on Nickelodeon. With an established unscripted business that includes Undercover Boss, Cash Cab and Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, All3Media is operating about 50-50 in scripted and unscripted fare.
"We have a lot of franchises around the world and it seemed to me with this recent success on the scripted front and our continuing success with Undercover Boss and other shows on the nonscripted front, what perhaps we should be considering is a little bit of structure and perhaps establishing a smaller version of the All3Media Group, which I would call All3America," Morrison told B&C. He said he aims to have All3America established "in the course of this year," with new international production chief and former BBC Worldwide exec Wayne Garvie leading the charge, Tellem providing mentorship and likely a number of hires in business affairs- and finance-type roles.
Five of All3Media's companies have a presence in the U.S. already: Company Pictures (Skins, Shameless); Lion TV (Cash Cab); Optomen, which includes its joint venture One Potato, Two Potato with Gordon Ramsay (Kitchen Nightmares); Studio Lambert (Undercover Boss) and Zoo Productions (5th Grader), which is a U.S. company to begin with. Morrison plans to bring over more by providing backing via All3America that paves the way for U.K.-based producers in the group to set up American shops.
Morrison expects the company's growth in the U.S. to come from acquisitions of more independent production companies as well as organic growth of the existing studios, especially as they join the beachhead in L.A. The veteran exec believes the All3Media model of leaving his acquired companies to operate autonomously, running their own businesses according to their own taste and style while enjoying the support of the larger company, is the one "best suited to creative businesses and particularly suited to independent TV production."
The exec, who is scheduled to do an onstage Q&A at NATPE in Miami Jan. 24, said he has seen All3Media-acquired studios go from making half a million dollars in profit a year to now making $5 million to $10 million annually. Said Morrison: "This model has been, thankfully, incredibly successful if I may say so as modestly as I can."