BBCWW, Cohen form funding initiative

Scripted-logo-460_2Danny CohenBBC Worldwide, Danny Cohen’s Access Entertainment and UK indie Lookout Point have created a premium drama funding initiative aimed at taking projects straight to series.

The operation will be known as Benchmark Television. While it is not a production entity, it will commission projects from third-party producers and writing talent.

BBCWW, the BBC’s commercial arm, and Access will underwrite the projects, which will then be shopped to broadcasters and on-demand platforms as straight-to-series offers.

The intention is to create a new route to market for writing and producing talent by bypassing the broadcaster greenlight process.

In theory, this will allow the creators and producers to keep significant rights ownership of the programming they develop. It will also redress the balance of power in territories such as the UK, where broadcasters hold virtual monopolies over what is commissioned.

Benchmark’s first target is a major commission in the “coming months”, and early stage discussions with talent is underway.

War and Peace prodco Lookout Point will oversee the day-to-day management of Benchmark, working closely with BBCWW, which owns a stake in the indie, and Access to foster relationships with global talent.

Cohen (pictured abive right), who joined Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries to launch a new production fund after leaving his role as director of television at UK pubcaster the BBC, is chair of the Benchmark group.

BBCWW’s chief content officer, Helen Jackson, and Lookout joint CEOs Simon Vaughan and Faith Penhale will also form the executive group. They will jointly develop and select programmes, and oversee the commissioning process. BBCWW will manage the international rights.

“This innovative partnership will finance and produce world-class scripted television for audiences around the world,” said Cohen, Access Entertainment’s UK-based president. “Access Entertainment plans to work with the world’s very best writers and producers over the coming years and invest significant capital in television production.”

Lookout Point’s Vaughan said Benchmark was “offering a new and dynamic model that will benefit talent, networks and audiences”.

BBCWW owns a 49% stake in Lookout Point, and the pair are regular coproduction partners, next up on Les Misérables. Worldwide and Access, meanwhile, are both investors in House Productions, the indie former Channel 4 drama boss Tessa Ross and ex-Working Title Television UK chief Juliette Howell created last year.