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Sky, Starz test their Fortitude

UK pay channel Sky Atlantic and US premium cable net Starz have co-commissioned a high end 13-part drama, the first time they have hooked up on such a project.

Fortitude comes from Fifty Fathoms and Endemol-owned Tiger Aspect. Low Winter Sun writer Simon Donald is attached. BSkyB’s head of drama Anne Mensah and Madonna Baptiste executive produce, along with Donald and Patrick Spence for Fifty Fathoms and Tiger Aspect and Colin Callender for Starz. Mensah commissioned the series.

The series is set in a safe and close-knit Arctic community that is ripped apart by a gruesome murder of a British researcher.

Shooting begins this year for a 2014 TX date. Casting details will follow soon.

Rumours about the series first surfaced earlier this week in Cannes but was officially announced by Sky’s managing director, content, Sophie Turner Laing during her MIPTV keynote yesterday.

In her speech, she had pointed to drama as the next stage of Sky’s push to invest £600 million (US$917 million) in original British content per year by 2014. Sky, which only got into commissioning two years ago, recently gave the go ahead for 70 hours of new content from the genre.

She also urged the TV industry attending to stop debating the future of content delivery and focus on collaborating on new projects instead. “Spend you time her talking about shows, not pipes,” she said.

Sky has been increasing looking to other international pay TV platforms to coproduce its drama, recently commissioning. In January, it announced an Anglo-French remake of Scandinavian noir The Bridge with Canal+, which will broadcast on Sky Atlantic and the French pay platform.

Laing, a former Hit Entertainment and Jim Henson Company exec who has topped Sky’s entertainment and news channels business since 2007, claimed the key to working with international partners was creating a fully collaborative process “from the earliest possible minute”.

“Both partners have to be absolutely clear from the start or nuclear bombs go off in production,” she said.