Thursday, 4 March 2010


[14.30 - French Time] Broadcast reports that Carnival Films, owned by NBC Universal, is adding to the budgets for two major dramas the company is producing for ITV: Downton Abbey and series 2 of Whitechapel.

Described as a new Upstairs, Downstairs, Downton Abbey is set in an Edwardian country house in 1912 and portrays the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. The 1 x 90-minute and 6 x 60-minute series is created and written by Oscar-winning writer and actor Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park). Downton Abbey stars Dame Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville (Lost in Austen) and Elizabeth McGovern (

Ironically, the prestige drama is considered as ITV's answer to the BBC's upcoming revival of Upstairs, Downstairs ( - the original ran on ITV from 1971 to 1975. According to Broadcast, ITV is thought to be contributing about £700,000 an hour but Carnival is topping up the budget in order to push it to £1m per episode, based on estimated international sales for the period drama.

Carnival Films must also top up the budget for series 2 of ITV's three-part thriller hit Whitechapel (most-watched new British drama series for 2009) after ITV reduced it because of recession. Carnival's move is based on international sales for Whitechapel II, currently filming in East London to be aired this autumn. The shooting of Downton Abbey starts this month.

NBC Universal is very active in the British television industry, with Carnival Films (bought in 2008) and the newly created Working Title Television, the television division of Working Title Films - owned by the American media conglomerate. It will be interesting to watch the activities of both companies this year.


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