Disney ditches ABC Studios International

Keli Lee with The Gloaming’s Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie.

Disney Television Studios has axed ABC Studios International, the London-based unit which has a first-look deal with Hoodlum Entertainment and co-commissioned The Gloaming with Stan.

The London-based unit led by Keli Lee, ABC Studios’ managing director, international content and talent, appears to be a victim of Disney’s $US71 billion acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets.

Disney TV Studios, which encompasses ABC Studios/ABC Signature, 20th Century Fox TV and Fox 21 TV Studios, is re-evaluating its UK presence and overall international strategy, according to Variety.

However the move may not have any immediate or even longer term impact in Australia. Hoodlum had renewed its first-look deal with ABC Studios International and Disney Media Distribution will handle sales of The Gloaming.

Produced by the creator/showrunner, Sweet Potato Films’ Vicki Madden, Fiona McConaghy and 2 Jons’ John Molloy and Jon Adgemis, the eight-part murder-mystery starring Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie premieres on Stan on New Year’s Day.

It’s unlikely that Disney’s appetite for international drama will lessen although the studio has not yet indicated any interest in acquiring original content for Disney+.

Disney has told international producers that projects underway with Lee and the former ABC Studios International banner are now being handled out of the studio’s Burbank offices. ABC execs Stephanie Leifer and Tracy Underwood are said to be dealing with ongoing shows.

An 18-year veteran with the company, Lee left her post as executive VP casting for ABC Entertainment Group in 2015 and moved to London to oversee ABC Studios’ international expansion.

The unit moved into series production in 2017 with Hoodlum’s Harrow, a co-production with ABC TV, followed by the first-look deal with the company headed by Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield.

Series 3 of Harrow is shooting in Queensland with Ioan Gruffudd making his directing debut alongside Tony Tilse, Grant Brown, Catherine Millar, Mairi Cameron and Peter Andrikidis.

Among other projects Lee initiated is the Poppy Montgomery series Reef Break for the US ABC network and French broadcaster M6.

In development are a 10-part series that will retell works of Shakespeare from female perspectives, a co-pro with Hoodlum, the ABC and Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment; and the Lucy Liu-produced anthology Unsung Heroes, about pioneering women who shaped history.