Israeli powerhouse set to rewrite script

ISRAELI production powerhouse Keshet Media Group has joined forces with Nine chairman David Haslingden's Northern Pictures to establish a local TV production house. The studio and broadcaster -- best known for the adaptation of its Prisoner of War format in the US as the Emmy Award-winning Homeland starring Claire Danes -- has also appointed Alan Harris as head of scripted programming at Keshet Australia.

The move is another expansive manoeuvre by the former Fox Networks executive Haslingden, who also has production houses NHNZ and Beach House Pictures under his RACAT banner.

And it continues Keshet's -- and Israel's -- growth in major markets. Israel is the most successful seller of TV formats globally.

Under the joint venture, Northern Pictures has the rights to more than 50 Keshet International properties it hopes to reproduce in Australia.

The RACAT group produces more than 200 hours of programming for broadcasters including Discovery, National Geographic, History Channel, NHK, ABC, TVNZ and SBS, including the Once Upon A Time group of shows and the coming series about the Cronulla riots of 2005, 10 Days That Shocked The Nation.

"David Haslingden has certainly come back into Australia with a hiss and a roar," said Harris. Keshet Australia's competitive advantage was "reformatting of scripted and unscripted formats that have played out in Israel and been reformatted around the world . . . I've got a box of toys that have been proven in other territories to see whether its appropriate for them to be reconfigured for Australia or New Zealand."

Harris believes Keshet's asset as a start-up here is its library of programs. They include the recent Israeli hit Fair & Square, a reality show testing tradies, autism drama The 'A' Word and the family game show Sure or Insure.

So why are Israeli formats working globally? "Part of Keshet's ethos and, interestingly enough, from what I know of Israeli production, is they seem to work more on characterisation than localisation. So they can be adapted or reimagined keeping the same characters." Harris said a number of Keshet's comedy properties had interest from Australian broadcasters, but he stressed they do not aim to "transpose any creativity offshore" but rather to utilise local talent, "the up and coming writers . . . From what I've seen, it seems to be the same writers, let alone actors, who are writing everything here.