U.K. TV heavyweights to merge


U.K.-based international television producer Granada plc will merge with
fellow British company Carlton plc in a stock deal valued at $1.6 billion, said
Simon Shaps, Granada's chief executive of content, at a Beverly Hills press
conference Tuesday.

Granada produces such shows as the upcoming The Grubbs for Fox and
I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here for ABC, along with a great deal of
programming that airs internationally.

Both companies are major producers for the United Kingdom's largest
television network, ITV.

Speaking about I'm a Celebrity, Shaps said, "All systems are go" for
the reality skein, even after CBS threatened to sue over similarities to its
Survivor franchise.

"We are as confident as we can be" that the show doesn't infringe any
copyrights, Shap said, noting that the show has been in development overseas for
four or five years.

CBS said it is continuing to consider legal action. "We are still awaiting a
formal response from Granada and ABC before deciding on our next course of
action," a spokesman said. "We will, of course, take whatever actions are
appropriate and necessary to protect our valuable copyright on

I'm a Celebrity was a big hit in England, and Granada is hoping that the
show has the same success in the United States.

Shap would not say when ABC plans to air the show, but he added that Granada
was just starting preproduction and casting in Los Angeles last week.

Bringing popular British shows to the United States and vice versa is a model
Granada would like to capture across the board, and it is pitching U.S. studios
on the idea that together, U.S. and U.K. production companies can create
high-quality scripted programming for much less than the typical cost.

"I sense an appetite for an entirely new commercial model in which U.S. and
U.K. broadcasters would co-produce and co-transmit programs," Shap said.

Americans are seeing more and more British talent in their TV shows -- Shap
cited Mark Addy in CBS' Still Standing, Alfred Molina in CBS' Bram and
and John Hannah in ABC's MDs -- and that should help to open up
the possibilities for doing shows that air in both countries.

Moreover, U.K.-based FremantleMedia's American Idol: Search for a
on Fox was a format imported from Britain that proved to be a
smash success in the United States, helping to set the stage for more of the