Viacom sets sights on European production in major restructure

Viacom International Studios (VIS) is rolling out production hubs in the UK and Spain as it looks to expand its international production footprint. 

VIS is to open production centres in Madrid and Manchester as part of an ongoing expansion of international production of both English and Spanish-language programming. 

The roll-out follows last year’s launch of VIS Americas in LatAm. Headed by Federico Cuervo, the production base has established itself as a leading creator and distributor of Latin content with more than 900 hours of scripted, comedy, reality and kids’ live action originated out of six production hubs across the continent. 

The business hopes to replicate its LatAm strategy in Spain and the UK, as well as other territories. 

Jill Offman will oversee Viacom’s London-based production house, Elephant House Studios, which is being rebranded as Viacom International Studios UK with immediate effect. The latest rebrand comes just two years after Elephant House rebranded from 5Productions, in-house production arm for Channel 5. 

VIS UK will also open a new production outpost in Manchester to support its push to secure English-language commissions from third-party broadcasters and distributors based in the UK. 

VIS UK recently secured its first third-party commission with a new primetime factual series for ITV. The business hired Ed Taylor, former creative director of ITV Studios-backed label Potato, in September to serve as creative director.

VIS UK general manager Joe McLusky and creative director Taylor will now report to Offman, who as international brand head for both Comedy Central and Paramount Network, already has oversight of comedy and drama productions for Viacom out of the UK.

Offman is funding a number of scripted development projects with UK independent producers including a re-make of Bergerac from Artist Studios and a TV treatment of Amanda Craig’s novel Lie of the Land from Baby Cow.

MENA push 

Elsewhere, coinciding with Offman taking on her new UK responsibilities, Laura Abril has been appointed to lead a planned VIS expansion across western and southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa (MENA).

Based in Madrid, Abril will head an expanded team that, like VIS UK, has been tasked with securing commissions from pay-TV operators, broadcasters and SVOD and social media platforms across these regions, in addition to having oversight of production of multi-platform content for Viacom’s own branded networks in these territories.

The Madrid team will also work closely with VIS Americas to jointly develop, produce and syndicate content across western and southern Europe and MENAfor example, the VIS teams in Argentina and Spain have collaborated on the development of a Spanish-language remake for TV of the Hitchcock classic, To Catch a Thief, which will be produced in Barcelona and Buenos Aires.

The content sales division of the expanded and aligned VIS operation will attend next week’s MIPTV market in Cannes with a bolstered catalogue including, for the first time, Awesomeness film and TV titles, a range of scripted development projects, new factual series and formats originated for Channel 5 and the latest titles and formats from Viacom’s flagship brands Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.

Elsewhere, the VIS Americas team has finalised a number of sales to European broadcasters including licensing the format for Amar Despues de Amar (Love After Loving) to Alpha in Greece, TVI Portugal and Atresmedia in Spain.

David Lynn, CEO of Viacom International Media Networks, said: “Broadcasters and streamers are in a global ‘arms race’ for the best content, which represents a significant growth opportunity for Viacom with our international studio capacity and in-built creative expertise, exemplified by Jill, Laura and Federico. As our competitors become more vertically integrated, Viacom is free to forge much deeper partnerships with all kinds of distributors internationally and for all types of content.” 

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