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Sports producer IMG tops Production 100 rankings

Sports producer IMG Media has come out on top of the Production 100, Televisual’s annual survey of the indie production sector.

Ranked on turnover, IMG Media took the top spot with revenues of £136.3m. IMG credits include a huge array of sport, including the Premier League, horse racing, darts, snooker and Wimbledon.

In second place was X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent co-producer Thames, with revenues of £89.6m, while Deal or No Deal and The Million Pound drop producer Remarkable Television came third with a turnover of £70.5m.

The survey reports on an indie sector which has enjoyed a good 12 months with reported total UK revenues of £2.1bn.

A number of indies have had a particularly strong year, with outfits such as Raw TV, Baby Cow, The Garden, Mammoth Screen, Big Talk and True North doubling their turnover.

Indies said the UK commissioning market had picked up, and many had continued to expand into international markets.

As the UK indie sector has become more export focused, several indies such as Wag TV, Raw TV, Darlow Smithson, Studio Lambert and Blink Films now earn more than 50% of their revenues from international broadcasters.

The majority of indies (54%) said they were confident about the prospects for business in the year ahead.

At the same time, though, the survey reveals an indie sector that is working harder than ever, in a very competitive landscape, to maintain success. Long hours, falling budgets and stress are part and parcel of the experience of many production executives.

Many indies also said they feared the sector was becomingly increasingly risk averse, producing shows that look and feel the same in a bid to mitigate failure.

Indies said that budgets had fallen by 2.27% over the past year.

24 Hours in A&E producer The Garden took the top spot in the Production 100 Peer Poll, based on votes by rival indies. Raw TV came second, while Wall to Wall was third in the Peer Poll.

The top 10 indies according to the Production 100:

1. IMG Media (£136.3m)
2. Thames (£89.6m)
3. Remarkable (£70.5m)
4. Lime Pictures (£60m)
5. Carnival Film and Television (£52.7m)
6. Twofour (£47.3m)
7. Wall to Wall (£47m)
8. Initial (£45.8m)
9. Tiger Aspect (£45m)
10. Shine TV (£44m)

The full Production 100 survey is available to read in Televisual’s September issue.

Posted 23 August 2013 by Tim Dams

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan: 'Don't set out to create a big hit'

What is the one piece of advice that Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan would give to writers and drama execs looking to emulate the success of his hit show?

“Don’t set out to create a big hit.”

Speaking with Televisual ahead of his masterclass today at the Edinburgh TV festival on his acclaimed TV drama, Gilligan said: “I think my best advice would be to write about stories that grip you as a writer personally, and characters that intrigue you. And not to think  too far ahead about if they will sell, or if they will resonate with others. The truth is no-one knows what will resonate with others.”

Gilligan says he was immediately intrigued by his lead character of Walter White –a middle-aged chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and produces top quality crystal meth to pay for his treatment.

“When I came up with the character Walter White I was just intrigued by him as a character - I felt him interesting and fascinating. He was somebody I could sink my teeth into as a writer.”

“Great stories of success, whether in storytelling or creating a company like Amazon or Google - I have to believe that they come up with those success stories because they had a personal passion for the idea and weren’t thinking too far ahead in terms of, ‘I really think this is going to resonate.’ Some of the biggest successes seem to me in hindsight to feel somewhat accidental. This feels that way.”

Breaking Bad, produced and distributed by Sony Pictures Television, is airing its concluding fifth series on US cable channel AMC and on streaming service Netflix in the UK.

Gilligan said: “I did not stop to think how crazy the pitch for Breaking Bad was and, in fact, it only really dawned on me the first time I was pitching the show to a couple of Sony executives, my bosses, in 2005 or maybe 2006. I saw the deer in the headlights looks in their eyes as they realised that this is not necessarily going to be a show for everybody. Luckily they ended up buying it.”

Gilligan is now working with Breaking Bad co-writer and producer Peter Gould to create a spin-off from the show, based around the Saul Goodman character.

Posted 22 August 2013 by Tim Dams

The worst TV I've ever made...

‘The worst TV I’ve ever made and everything it taught me’ is one of the session highlights at this month’s Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival. Two of its brave panellists confess all.

Lisa Clark
Company director, Pett Productions

I produced about 300 live shows of The Big Breakfast and was given an invaluable piece of advice which I’ve never forgotten:  when making television the most important thing is to make a decision. It might be the right one or it could be the wrong one, but particularly if the show is live, for god’s sake make a decision. People need to know what they are doing.

I made a lot of decisions over three years on The Big Breakfast and two years on Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush. The ratio was about 60:40 in favour of the right way. But I don’t remember the good decisions; I only remember the bad…and the bollockings I subsequently got.

There was the live demonstration from a dog obsessed with playing Mario Kart. He wasn’t and didn’t. Then there was a Russian roulette game with fizzy pop bottles which subsequently didn’t fizz.

The best – or worst – was having to decide in a split second which lady punter Chris Evans needed to sit next to in the audience on Toothbrush to play our game ‘How’s Your Father?’ Her father was supposedly backstage waiting to appear and surprise her with the reply – “I’m fine”, winning her £1000 in the process. In the gallery I identified the wrong woman and tried to stop Chris from sitting in the wrong place, but it was too late.

“How’s Your Father?” Chris asked excitedly. She stared back at him in utter disbelief. Then …“He’s dead”, she faltered. And I knew I was too.

Jonathan Stadlen
Exec producer, Knickerbockerglory

Having a failure is creatively one of the best things that ever happened to me. And it hasn’t happened just once. The risk of failure is a good thing. Firstly it tells me that we – the production company and the channel – are taking a risk. The more of a failure it could be, the more of a risk – but conversely the more of a potential success as well. I believe you can only succeed as much as you are willing to fail.

Failure is a very subjective thing. Some of the failures I have developed I loved. Some I didn’t think were any good did exceptionally well. Viewing figures shouldn’t be the only benchmark of success or failure. Lots of people would watch a show called Royal Bedroom Live – that doesn’t mean it would be a good show (actually, it probably would…)

The first show I ever developed was called Double Entry. It’s aim was to explore what constitutes an erotic narrative from a male and female perspective in ‘a fun film-making competition between a group of men and a group of women’. It basically descended into soft porn. I learnt more from that process than from any of the successful shows I made.

Everyone blames you when you have a failure, but claims the show as theirs when you have a success. I’ve met more people who invented Strictly Come Dancing then I’ve had hot dinners. But failures aren’t bad. It’s not learning something from those failures that ends up being pretty catastrophic for business.

Posted 05 August 2013 by Tim Dams
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