Jun 26, 2021
By Kelby Clark
Internal partnerships make external partnerships a reality, according to the studio’s team of veteran television executives.
Great TV starts with a great studio.
Under President Nicole Clemens’ leadership, Paramount Television Studios has created some of the most talked-about original series of the last two years. The secret to their success has been a collaborative internal culture, with development, casting, and current programming moving together every step of the way.
“By the time we’re ready to present a project to the town, a lot of different departments have put their specialized knowledge into how we are going to bring a new series to life,” says Jenna Santoianni, EVP of television series and head of development at Paramount Television Studios. “It’s gotten more series orders, rather than a development situation or a pilot order.”
Santoianni, who previously headed up development and production at Sonar Entertainment, started at the studio a little over two years ago, on the same day as colleague Cheryl Bosnak, EVP and head of current programming. Veteran casting executive and the studio’s EVP of casting Deborah Aquila joined in May 2020, rounding out a mostly female senior leadership team.
“When I took over running the studio nearly three years ago, my first priority was making sure we had the right players on the field,” explains Clemens. “From Jenna, Cheryl, Deb, and the rest of our team, everyone’s been committed to developing and supporting our creators and being great partners to our distributors, which is how we’ve reached 23 shows on air, ordered, or in production. It solidified our position as a destination for talent and a trusted supplier of content in this increasingly competitive landscape.”
"WE’RE CONSTANTLY ASKING OURSELVES HOW WE CAN ELEVATE OUR CONTENT TO CUT THROUGH THE NOISE."
EVP of casting
Currently, the studio is bolstering the slate for ViacomCBS’ newly-launched streaming service, Paramount+, with series such as The Offer, which tells the story of the making of The Godfather. The series, starring Miles Teller, currently has a 10-episode commitment and is about to start production, with Dexter Fletcher directing and serving as executive producer. Also in development are Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, Italian Job, Flashdance, Fatal Attraction, and Love Story, a series based on the award-winning film, from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the executive producers of Gossip Girl. The studio also sells to ViacomCBS-branded streamers BET+, and Showtime OTT, the latter of which just picked up American Gigolo, with David Hollander adapting the classic film and Jon Bernthal starring.
“As a group, we’re constantly asking ourselves how we can elevate our content to cut through the noise,” says Aquila. “Much of those conversations revolve around the amazing creators and artists with whom we partner.”
Managing long-term relationships with talent is crucial to the studio’s success, Bosnak says, and that’s why working so closely with the other departments matters.
“It’s difficult to work closely on a script or an idea with a creator, to the point where it’s ready to go into series, while also managing a number of ongoing series. “Managing is a full-time job itself,” she explains.
“That’s why it’s smart to split the two. Our development team can really get in there and get the show ready and going. Then, it’s a very gentle handoff to the current programming department.”
"We're not a factory. We don't just throw anything we can at the wall and see if it's going to stick as a television show."
EVP of television series and head of development