Endemol seeks a home in U.S.

Time is right for Euro formats, de Mol sez

Big Brother is looking to invade the United States.

Endemol, the production company behind the global hit format “Big Brother,” is expected to announce shortly plans to open up a new division Stateside.

As part of the expansion into the U.S., Endemol chairman-CEO John de Mol said he’s looking to acquire one or more medium-sized nonfiction production houses.

“The moment is here,” de Mol said. “Now is the time to do it. The market has opened up for European formats.”

De Mol is in town this week to interview potential candidates to run the upstart Endemol U.S. The exec wouldn’t comment, however, on those under consideration for the top post or possible corporate acquisitions.

Endemol, which was recently acquired by Spanish telco Telefonica, operates about 25 companies in 16 territories, de Mol said.

Company boasts more than 400 formats, he said, only 10 of which are in the “Big Brother”-esque reality category. Endemol has already started making overtures to networks, syndicators and cablers about working with its new U.S. operation.

“Philosophically, we want to produce our own formats,” he said. “That’s an important thing. We’re not a format sales company — we’re a production company.”

While “Big Brother’s” performance on CBS has been middling this summer, the voyeur strip has become a raging success in other countries, including the U.K. Endemol also recently sealed a deal with NBC for 16 episodes of the relationship series “Chains of Love.”

Other Endemol productions included the recent Jerry Springer special “Now or Never” and the upcoming NBC spec “Sweet Revenge.” Also, de Mol notes that U.S. first-run series such as “Your Big Break” and “Forgive or Forget” originated as Endemol formats.

Sources, however, have at least partially blamed Endemol’s European-minded production values for “Big Brother’s” problems in the U.S.

De Mol argues, however, that U.K. and German audiences expect the same high level of production values as in the U.S., yet have made “Big Brother” a hit in their countries. He lays most of the blame on the U.S. edition’s lackluster casting.

“With casting you have to have a little bit of luck,” he said. “The chemistry of the people sometimes you can’t predict 100%.”

De Mol admits he’s been disappointed with the results of the U.S. version so far. “For me it’s only a success when we reach a second series and raise the ratings,” he said. “If we come back with a second series with the right cast, everybody will want to know what’s going on.”

House revolt brewing?

“Big Brother” created a stir over the weekend when the show’s houseguests discussed plans to revolt on Wednesday night’s town hall installment. But following a plea by contestant Eddie’s parents, and fellow housemate Curtis’ visit to the Emmys Sunday night, the players have apparently decided to stay.

Endemol still hopes to inject some new life into the house and plans to again offer $50,000 or more on Wednesday night’s episode to any guest who wants to leave the house.

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