The ethics of an indie marriage

Pragmatic partnerships gather pace but proper credit must be paid

It is probably unfair to suggest that big is always beautiful for broadcasters – but there is clearly something soothing about scale, especially when it comes to production.

Last month, the co-creators of The Chase told Broadcast that they needed to partner with Endemol Shine Group in order to convince commissioners they could be trusted with major entertainment projects.

Former ITV Studios execs Amanda Wilson and Elliot Johnson can point to one of TV’s biggest gameshows on their CV, but believe that working with the super-indie group will be transformative for their Sharp Jack TV venture.

The resource to help fund taster tapes and pilots is one obvious benefit to this kind of relationship, but the focus of the debate has now shifted small indies’ ability to deliver shows, as per our front page story.

Little Gem’s Five Star Hotel is clearly an expensive show by E4’s standards, with an estimated budget of around £200k an episode and a 15-part run. But should Channel 4 insist on a partnership with a bigger indie to get the commission over the line?

Probably not, though it’s easy to see why. Twofour (which was Little Gem’s choice of partner from a C4 shortlist) is a key C4 supplier and has significant experience in the holiday reality genre, thanks to ITV2’s long-running Ibiza Weekender. That brings reassurance for the broadcaster.

Plus, Five Star Hotel is a different type of show to the Little Gem’s best-known title How To Lose Weight Well [pictured], which is more a traditional features format.

Even still, it is being forced to share revenues in a way it would not have hoped, on top of working with Motion Content Group, the business formerly known as Group M Entertainment.

I suspect a pragmatic producer might swallow their frustration in order to land a transformative show. Working with a bigger production partner with experience in a new genre might help attract higher calibre production talent, and the most important factor will be delivering a high-quality show and making sure the credit is properly apportioned.

If Sky, C4 or any other broadcaster wants a small indie to prove their credentials via a production partnership, they need to let them do just that. Whether Five Star Hotel performs like Love Island or Hotel GB, if C4 gets the show it is expecting, then Little Gem should move up its internal hierarchy.

Easing a small company into a production partnership once can be justified – asking it to do so time and again would feel unfair.

Chris Curtis is editor of Broadcast

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