Viacom set to scale up international TV studios with new production centres, management team

Laura Abril will head Viacom International Studios roll-out across Europe, Middle East & Africa, building on successful Latin American launch last year
Viacom International Studios to expand international production footprint
Photo by Susanna Martin 2015
Viacom International Studios to expand international production footprint

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Viacom International Studios (VIS) is to open new production centres in Madrid and Manchester, as part of an ongoing expansion of its international production capacity in both the English and Spanish languages. In keeping with the global shift in international content production, the new studios with expanded production capacity will enable Viacom to create and distribute content globally.

VIS is expanding its international production footprint following its successful launch in Latin America last year. VIS Americas, headed by Federico Cuervo, has rapidly established itself as a leading creator and distributor of Latin content with more than 900 hours of scripted, comedy, reality and kids’ live action being originated out of six different production centres across the continent and available for pre-sale or syndication in 2019. 

With a view to replicating this success in other territories, Jill Offman will now assume management oversight of Viacom’s London-based production house, Elephant House Studios, which is being rebranded as Viacom International Studios UK with immediate effect. 

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 all production of multi-platform content for Viacom’s own branded networks in these territories.

Laura joined VIMN in 2009, as VP of Editorial for MTV Spain; in 2014, she was promoted to VP, Youth & Music Brands for South Europe, Middle East and Africa and subsequently took over responsibility for Kids and Family brands in those regions, whilst being promoted to SVP. 

The team in Madrid will also work closely with their colleagues at VIS Americas to jointly develop, produce and syndicate content across western and southern Europe and MENA – for 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.

At the same time, VIS UK will open a new production office in Manchester to support its push to secure English-language commissions from third party broadcasters and distributors based in the UK, in addition to the large volume of content it already produces locally for Channel 5 and Viacom’s pay TV channels.

The UK production outfit is currently filming its first-ever original production for a channel or platform not owned by Viacom, having been commissioned to produce a new prime time factual series for ITV.

VIS UK’s General Manager, Joe McLusky, and Creative Director, Ed 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.

David Lynn, CEO, Viacom International Media Networks, commented: “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.”

The content sales division of the expanded and aligned VIS operation will be at the MIP TV market in Cannes next week with a significantly richer 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.

Having secured high-profile content deals with a number of distributors across Latin America, including the recent launch of its comedy Homens on Amazon Prime and the sale of Borges to Netflix, the VIS Americas team has now 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.

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