The company behind both American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance is set to launch a venture with former Entertainment One exec Noreen Halpern’s newly launched Halfire Entertainment, appropriately titled Halfire-CORE. As part of the arrangement, CORE will fund the development and production of series for cable and broadcast TV as well as for digital players including Netflix and Amazon.
The differentiator will be the way in which they approach and finance their programming efforts.
“Together we recognized that there are huge opportunities for people who are nimble and who want to put together non-traditional financing; people who are asking: ‘How can we make series that go straight to series?’ ‘How can we put international co-productions together with Canada or Europe?’ ‘How can we work with both the broadcast and cable side and avoid the traditional pilot system?’” Halpern says of the collaboration in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
Well-versed in the business of new models through her tenure as eOne’s head of scripted, where she launched such shows as Rookie Blue, Hung and Haven, Halpern was introduced to Graboff and CORE’s U.S. TV chief Jen O’Connell by CORE consultant Rob Lee. Though she had been approached by other potential financiers, Halpern says none was as closely aligned in philosophy as those at CORE. Graboff, a former long-term top executive at NBC, suggested the same was true for him and his growing team.
“In putting our strategic plan together about how we would want to enter the scripted content business, the one thing I knew I didn’t want to do was to do the traditional model: pilot season, high deficit pilots, the normal cycle. That’s a tough model for an independent to play in,” notes Graboff, adding that there is a “desperate desire” for this kind of fare –often billed as “lower cost programming”– at the networks, given the increasingly fractured landscape and the free-falling ratings that have accompanied it. Historically, the trouble for such fare has been that it has often lagged in quality and/or network involvement.
“One of the things that I was always frustrated by [when I was at NBC] was that often those deals that would come across were deal driven — an acquisition of a show that was already in production in Canada — and therefore there was not a lot of creative buy-in at the company and that translated into not a lot of promotion. People have discounted the model as a result,” he says, adding that Halfire-CORE intends to change that perception by being creative-driven.
To hear Halpern tell it, the networks are not the only ones clamoring for a new way of doing business. Writers, too, are increasingly interested in ways not only to avoid the laborious and inherently uncertain pilot process but also to have more of an ownership stake in their product. “We’re at this place now where there are a lot of creators who want to bank on themselves,” she says. “A big part of how we’re going to be financing ours shows means lower deficits going into the marketplace, which will mean more upside for the creator.”
While Graboff and Halpern are keeping tightlipped about their programming plans, they claim that they’re prepared to begin shopping shows soon. Halpern has been working on several projects in the few months since she launched the company — and because of their non-traditional model, they aren’t confined to a specific season to pitch or develop them.
The new venture is the latest in CORE’s push to expand existing development and production capabilities. The Apollo-owned company, which tapped former ITV director of television Simon Shaps to lead its new U.K. television division, recently inked a deal to develop scripted and unscripted TV and digital fare with Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner’s Hazy Mills Productions.