Irish television producer signs deal to create ‘big laughs’ on Sky

‘Gogglebox Ireland’ maker Kite sets up writers’ room to develop scripted series

Flying with Kite: Sky head of entertainment Phil Edgar-Jones.  The broadcaster has chosen Kite Entertainment, makers of Gogglebox Ireland and Ireland’s Got Talent, to develop a show to be broadcast on Sky 1

Flying with Kite: Sky head of entertainment Phil Edgar-Jones. The broadcaster has chosen Kite Entertainment, makers of Gogglebox Ireland and Ireland’s Got Talent, to develop a show to be broadcast on Sky 1

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Kite Entertainment, which makes Gogglebox Ireland and Ireland’s Got Talent, has signed a development deal with Sky that will fund the creation of an American-style writers’ room.

The Dublin-based production company will use Sky’s investment to set up a 12-week writers’ room in which “a mix of comedy voices” will develop a “scripted entertainment” series.

It is expected that this will lead to a significant commission from Sky, which issued a call-out for ideas from Irish independent producers last September. Sky’s head of entertainment Phil Edgar-Jones and Sky Ireland managing director JD Buckley indicated that it would spend €2.2 million on the Irish “indie” sector.

“The nice thing for us is that this is not a beauty pageant. They have put a bet on us and are backing us with the intention of turning it into something,” said Kite managing director Darren Smith.

New talent

The writers’ room, a group of about seven people, will begin work from May and start filming material from June. Mr Smith said it was “exciting” to be in a position to pay writers at the development stage for a project likely to air on a UK channel.

The planned Sky 1 series will be “filled with big laughs” and have “world-class production values”. It will “feature at least one household name” and also showcase new talent.

Kite optioned the Irish rights to the US format Saturday Night Live last year and pitched it to broadcasters here. Although the project for Sky is “not Saturday Night Live”, the move “made us interesting to Sky”, said Mr Smith.

“They were quite taken by the ambition or the delusion of us optioning Saturday Night Live.”

The idea of a writers’ room is becoming more popular in the UK and European television business, but it is standard practice in the US industry, where series with long episode orders have relatively vast writing teams behind them.

“It would be nice to have three customers,” Mr Smith said, referring to the traditional tendency of Irish independent producers to be heavily reliant on RTÉ.

Genealogy hit

As well as making a new Irish series of celebrity genealogy hit Who Do You Think You Are? alongside Animo TV for RTÉ One and pitching another run of its competition format Ireland’s Fittest Family, Kite now makes two of TV3’s biggest Irish-produced shows in Gogglebox Ireland and Ireland’s Got Talent.

It has a “first look” option on formats created by UK company Studio Lambert and hopes to make an Irish version of its format The Big Life Fix, in which “incredibly bright people” are tasked with solving community problems.

Kite is also the co-producer of Copper Face Jacks: The Musical, by Paul Howard, which is destined for Dublin’s Olympia Theatre this summer.

Sky has previously worked with Irish talent on series such as Chris O’Dowd’s comedy Moone Boy and Baz Ashmawy’s 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy, while the Sky Atlantic-Showtime period drama co-production Penny Dreadful was filmed at Ardmore Studios near Bray.

Mr Edgar-Jones advised Irish producers last year that Sky was looking for something “uniquely funny and startling” for a 10pm timeslot on Sky 1.

“We’ll always eventually ask, ‘who’s in this, though?’ But for starters we’d just like to see something that makes us laugh, is unashamedly daft, immensely shareable on social and laugh-out-loud funny.”

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