The boom in foreign unscripted formats' working so well in America couldn't have come at a better time for the William Morris Agency's Holly Pye. The head of United Kingdom television for the agency specializes in shipping formats both ways across the Atlantic.
She is responsible for bringing a slew of overseas shows to the U.S., including NBC's The Weakest Link and Fox's Hell's Kitchen. She also works with some of the bigger names to have found multi-continental success from Jo Frost of Supernanny to Jerry Springer.
“We got involved with this right before any of the American agencies,” she says. “Because we have had the UK office for so long, we obviously have a huge amount of relationships, which has helped.”
But her prowess in the television-import/export business runs in her family. She is the daughter of 2waytraffic Chairman Chris Pye, a TV veteran whose track record includes stints with Granada and the BBC. Last year. he oversaw his company's purchase of the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire format from Celador International.
“Holly Pye is an invaluable part of our global television packaging team,” says Mark Itkin, executive VP worldwide/co-head of William Morris, who repped her father. “She understands and has great taste in content and knows how to package and sell that content to our buyers worldwide.”
After growing up around the business and developing a passion herself, she pursued television as a career while at University College London by interning at production companies. Then in 1997, she got a break in the form of an offer to become an assistant at William Morris. After 2½ years in the film department, she was promoted into the television division, and her career took off.
Like any agent, she declines to name her favorite client but admits that the fascination with Jerry Springer in both the U.S. and the UK has been a wild ride. “When he first came [to the UK], it was all about the talk show and people chanting in the streets, but now he is an even bigger star,” she says.
While Pye has enjoyed bringing names and format to the U.S., she sees as much opportunity in the reverse pipeline, à la Springer: “We're seeing the same amount flowing to America, but now it's even more going from America to the UK and around the world.”