U.S. players position fare for French mart

On the eve of the Mipcom TV trade show, which opens in Cannes on Monday, a number of North American companies are parading out deals or positioning product so as to hit the ground running.

Although the entire world economy is in a funk, it hasn’t stopped large and small players alike from pulling out all the stops as they head for the five-day bazaar on the Croisette.

Take the newly named Sony Pictures TV. While the Hollywood major has scaled back its production of new primetime series for the U.S. networks, it is putting the accent on local-lingo shows from Germany, Britain and Asia at Mipcom.

Sony Pictures Television Intl. will roll out three locally produced shows — German ratings winner “Me and My Life”; Blighty teen drama “Rockface,” which airs on BBC1; and “A Rich and Famous Governor” from Asia.

SPTI’s local production efforts have grown steadily since the studio began building strong production infrastructure in the U.K. and Germany 10 years ago.

Border-crossing appeal

“More and more, we see that it’s not one country of origin but the quality of the production that drives program and audience appeal,” said Peter Iacono, SPTI’s exec VP of sales.

Company has just snapped up international format rights to Argentina’s hot reality show “Human Resources,” on which unemployed people compete for actual jobs and employee benefits as well as cash and prizes.

Meanwhile, the Mouse House has inked a four-year deal with DIC Entertainment to air the latter’s “Incredible Movie Toons” animated feature package on its Disney Channels in major territories abroad.

Deal will be unveiled at Mipcom on Monday by Pat Ryan and Leslie Nelson, co-managing directors of DIC sales worldwide. The territories include the major Euro markets as well as Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East and Scandinavia.

“Incredible Movie Toons” are a series of feature-length animated pics based on classic stories, characters from DIC’s library and original concepts reflecting today’s culture. The first season’s titles, premiering this fall, include “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” “Inspector Gadget,” “Dennis the Menace,” “Madeline,” “Treasure Island” and “The Time Machine.”

“We have sought to secure not only the Tiffany brand-name titles, but the first-class talent to craft them,” DIC chairman-CEO Andy Heyward said of the shows.

On the reality front, Canuck format specialist Distraction has just inked a deal with Bunim/Murray for the latter to produce “StripSearch,” a new format for the U.S. marketplace. The deal was brokered by Mark Itkin of the William Morris Agency. Format was created by Screentime Australia, producers of “Popstars.”

Bunim/Murray expects to close a deal with a broadcaster very shortly in the U.S. Distraction keeps worldwide distribution, excluding New Zealand and Australia, and will be offering the format to buyers at Mipcom.

“Our decision to select Bunim/Murray was, in large part, due to their fantastic track record of producing tasteful reality shows,” Distraction founder Michel Rodrigue said.

Another reality specialist, the Gurin Co., is unveiling its most ambitious format slate to date at Mipcom. Among the new offerings is “Human Clock,” which airs on ITV in the U.K. and is focused on tough mental challenges, and “Ransacked,” which has been picked up by Air Prods. in France and allows contestants to win “better possessions” at the risk of losing what they have.

Finally, little distribber CABLEready, has been tapped to distribute Court TV’s hot show “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice” to overseas stations. CABLEready already licenses Court TV’s “Forensic Files” skein as part of its Medical Detectives franchise.

Court TV chairman-CEO Henry Schleiff said: “We knew from firsthand experience what a great job CABLEready always does in matching product to our own particular content needs, and saw that they were also taking great care to find appropriate outlets for “Forensic Files” internationally. So, it was only natural that we’d get Gary Lico and his team to move ahead with the international launch of Dominick’s popular series.”

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