Distribs have plenty for foreign buyers

'Angels' among the NATPE offerings

Foreign buyers, buck up. If you’re turned off by the weirder syndie shows on offer at NATPE, relax. The top U.S. sellers boast a bundle of new hours — still the best performing Yank genre in overseas markets.

Key Hollywood distribs will in fact use NATPE to firm deals for a number of upcoming midseason hours — think CBS’ “City of Angels” for one — or to talk up their more promising pilot projects for next season — think Michael Crichton’s “Timeframe” or the Steven Spielberg-produced “Semper Fi.”

Hour dramas are the best performing genre for foreign TV buyers and the most lucrative for Hollywood sellers, said Warner Bros. Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger.

That’s one of the reasons there’s a Goliath-sized poster of Tony Soprano outside the convention center entrance.

A good drama brings in $500,000 an episode from foreign sales, though a top-notch performer, like “ER” or “X-Files,” can rake in closer to $1 million an episode.

Sitcoms, by contrast, are lucky to chalk up $250,000 an episode in foreign sales.

Warners and Paramount, the two studios with the largest catalogs of product in the world, both have a number of new hours to pitch at NATPE.

Schlesinger points to his studio’s upcoming TV versions of the action feature “The Fugitive” and of the period suspenser “L.A. Confidential” as “likely contenders abroad.”

WBIT is also handling the Golden Globe best TV drama winner “The Sopranos,” which debuts soon in several key Euro territories, including Italy. Deals for the mobster series’ second season could also be sewn up this week.

“We also have high hopes for ‘Bull,’ a series for weblet WB set in a maverick Wall Street firm,” Schlesinger said.

Over at Paramount, which has just finished meshing the catalogs of Worldvision and Rysher into its own library, prexy Gary Marenzi is counting on several newcomer hour to galvanize sales.

“At NATPE foreign buyers like to kick the tires and see what we’ve got. The robustness of the advertising markets abroad should lead to a healthy year,” he said.

Marenzi points to family-oriented series “Higher Ground” for Pax TV and to the Barry Levinson/Tom Fontana young cop series “The Beat” for UPN as good bets abroad.

Over at the Columbia TriStar booth, international prexy Michael Grindon is also fielding a number of prospective hour winners.

“Falcone,” for example, is an actioner for CBS, which per Grindon, strikes “a lower note than ‘The Sopranos.’ ” It was held back from the sked after last spring’s Columbine High School massacre, but will air soon as a midseason replacement.

Grindon’s division will also be teasing several upcoming pilots from suppliers like ATG, the new firm backed by uber-agent Michael Ovitz and run by former Columbia production prexy Eric Tanenbaum.

Among its projects is a new Crichton futurist drama called “Timeframe.”

At CBI, the foreign sales arm of the freshly merged CBS and King World, prexy Armando Nunez Jr. hopes to close deals in the top territories in Europe for Stephen Bochco’s latest, “City of Angels,” which debuted on CBS two weeks ago.

“Sales to terrestrial broadcasters in Europe, especially the U.K., are very difficult,” Nunez admitted, but hopes to advance talks in several countries now that there are episodes available.

Finally, for those overseas buyers whose schedules could use lighter fare, Twentieth Century Fox Intl. TV boasts the hottest new sitcom Stateside — “Malcolm in the Middle.” The comedy premiered several weeks ago on Fox to excellent numbers.

Said Twentieth Intl. exec VP Marion Edwards: “We have a lot of interest in ‘Malcolm’ ” in those territories where it isn’t already locked up in ongoing output deals.

At NATPE, Edwards will be working toward deals in the U.K. and Spain — two of the most lucrative, albeit difficult, markets for U.S. product.

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