Co. to provide legal services, rights clearances, office space

Looking to beef up its North American army, FremantleMedia hopes to recruit a few good reality producers.

As one of its first moves under new CEO Tom Gutteridge, the company behind “American Idol” and “The Swan” has launched a new initiative to become an incubator for individual producers and small reality companies.

Under the first-look deals, FremantleMedia would provide housekeeping (legal and business affairs, rights clearances, etc.) for the producers, including office space at its Santa Monica headquarters.

Company is in talks with half a dozen producers and hopes to announce its first deal shortly.

“We’re looking at the whole range of production entities, such as the individual producer-writer who has a good idea and wants to join our creative hothouse here in Santa Monica,” Gutteridge said.

The exec said Fremantle also hopes to attract larger production companies that have their own base and overhead, but would like to negotiate their broadcast contracts with the heft of a large company like Fremantle behind them.

Producers would maintain ownership of their wares; in exchange, FremantleMedia would have the ability to exploit their franchises internationally and via licensing and merchandising deals.

“We have the ability to take a new format or programming idea and move it around the world almost overnight,” Gutteridge said. “We also have an unparalleled merchandising and marketing team in New York.”

Gutteridge pointed to the success Fremantle has had in taking 19 Television’s “Pop Idol” franchise and duplicating it around the globe, including the U.S. Fremantle is doing the same thing with “The Swan,” which arrived via indie producer Nely Galan. And even uber-producer Mark Burnett commissioned Fremantle to produce his “The Apprentice” franchise around the world.

“It’s sad to see a producer come up with good ideas, but when you ask where the rights lie, it’s either never been exploited or it resides with the network, which will never exploit it,” Gutteridge said.

“We’re making deals with people who want to start their production company but are not ready to make that step,” he said. “We’re not looking for exclusive, perpetual rights to people’s ideas, just a first-look arrangement.”

As part of Fremantle’s expanding focus, Gutteridge plans to reorganize his development squad. That includes eliminating production on the East Coast and focusing efforts in Santa Monica. These new production deals will augment Fremantle’s own development.

FremantleMedia’s program stable includes CBS’ “The Price Is Right,” TLC’s “Date Patrol” and syndie gamer “Family Feud.”

Gutteridge joined the company in January.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more