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BBC Studios debuts Auntie Productions

The BBC’s programme-making arm, BBC Studios, has unveiled new division Auntie Productions, which launches with a pair of BBC Two commissions.

Sam BickleyBBC Studios creative directors Samantha Anstiss and Sam Bickley are leading Auntie – whose title is a homage to an informal and affectionate name for Britain’s public broadcaster.

They have hired former Endemol Shine Group, Oxford Film and Television, and Blast! Films exec Charlie Nicholson as head of development.

The division was launched as a development and production hub two years ago, but to this point it has not had an official title. Auntie will now sit within Roger Leatham’s entertainment, music and events unit.

Development focus will go on a broad range of genres, from factual drama to factual entertainment and documentaries.

The prodco’s first official commissions are In Your Ear and Inside the World’s Most Extraordinary Hotels.

Each episode of doc format In Your Ear follows two people as they go through challenging weeks during which they may start a new job or recover from a life-changing disability, for example. A cast of “wise sages from around the UK and the globe” provide them with advice, new perspectives and wisdom.

Inside the World’s Most Extraordinary Hotels is a doc series in which cultural critic Giles Coren and chef Monica Galetti travel the world and go behind-the-scenes at some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring hotels.

BBC head of commissioning, natural history and specialist factual Tom McDonald; BBC Two channel editor Patrick Holland; and Tracy Forsyth, genre director, factual entertainment and entertainment for BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial arm, co-commissioned both six-part series.

Anstiss is best known for commissioning BBC shows such as Life and Death Row, Keeping Britain Alive and The Call Centre, while Bickley has previously ordered Don’t Take My Baby, The Food Inspectors, Beckham: Into the Unknown, Reggie Yates: Extreme Russia and World’s Toughest Jobs.

Bickley had led BBC Three on an interim basis after the exit of Zai Bennett for Sky Atlantic in 2014, but moved to Anstiss’ team in June last year.

Anstiss had launched the unit a year before, and said upon Bickley joining her: “Not only do we share a name but also an appetite for pushing at genre boundaries.”