BBC Finding Success in Los Angeles

The LA Times has a nice profile of BBC Worldwide Productions head Jane Tranter, who, three years ago, gave up a billion dollar programming budget in London to come to Los Angeles to adapt BBC shows to American audiences.

[T]ransporting a series is not easy. Humor, tone and relationships vary from culture to culture. Although some imports have been successful, including “Dancing With the Stars” and NBC‘s “The Office,” the TV scrap heap is littered with failed attempts.

Tranter tried to tally all of the British shows that had been developed for U.S. networks. “I stopped counting when I got to 85,” she said.

There was a BBC sitcom about an Indian immigrant family in London, “The Kumars at No. 42,” that U.S. producers tried to recast as a comedy about Mexican Americans living in Van Nuys, with Cheech Marin as the patriarch. Six episodes of “The Ortegas” were shot, but Fox declined to air even one.

Soon after Tranter arrived in California, she realized her production company’s business model needed an overhaul. By targeting the big broadcast networks as primary buyers, her group was missing the mark. She uprooted her small staff from its offices in North Hollywood, near the network nerve center, and moved it into a brick building on Santa Monica Boulevard on the edge of Century City. Tranter wanted to be close to major cable channels, including Starz and HBO.

In her three years in LA, Tranter’s staff has tripled in size, thanks to shows like The History Channel’s Top Gear. She also oversees Dancing With the Stars, which probably doesn’t hurt the bottom line either.