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Village Roadshow plans free ‘Drive’

Village Roadshow Pictures Worldwide is planning to give a limited number of U.S. TV stations the rights to air 13 episodes of its Australian-produced hour drama strip “Pacific Drive” for free this summer.

“Pacific Drive” currently airs on Nine Network in Australia and in 30 other countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany. Before News Corp. purchased New World Communications Group, New World Entertainment had planned to distributed the series domestically. Village Roadshow bought back the distribution rights from News Corp. and has retained veteran TV executive Bob Cohen to oversee the domestic launch.

Because there are so many hour-long series being canceled at the end of the season, Cohen has devised a plan that could give “Pacific Drive” a toehold. Cohen is offering to let about 15 to 20 metered-market stations air “Pacific Drive” for its limited launch and keep all 14 minutes of barter time. There’s also no cash component.

Slot requirement

The only thing Cohen wants is assurance the show will be promoted and scheduled in a decent timeslot, preferably afternoons, with daytime or late fringe slots as second and third possibilities. Stations that take the show for 13 weeks will have first rights to air the show if Village Roadshow chooses to launch the show nationwide next January. His strategy is not that unusual, given that syndicators often pay stations cash in exchange for clearances in New York.

“Pacific Drive” is a serial action-adventure shot and set in Australia’s Gold Coast and targeted mainly to women 18-49 and other young adults. Village Roadshow already has 390 half-hours in the can and ready-to-air.

Lifestyle spurt

Separately, Meredith Broadcasting is selling a new half-hour weekly lifestyle series based on its magazine Better Homes and Gardens for fall. The show has already been sold to NBC stations in the top three markets, perhaps as a companion to another similar new lifestyle weekly, “B. Smith With Style” from Hearst, according to reps. Both shows are attempting to fill the gap that will be left when “Martha Stewart Living” becomes a strip this fall. The show is sold for 3-1/2 minutes of barter, and it will be produced at WMAQ Chicago by the station’s new news chief, Joel Cheatwood.

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