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‘Threshold’ crossed

BSkyB picks up CBS Paramount thriller

“Threshold,” a sci-fi thriller toplining Carla Gugino and Charles Dutton, has been snapped up by Britain’s BSkyB in the first major sale unveiled at the ongoing LA Screenings event.

Drama will air this fall on CBS Friday at 9 p.m.and on flagship channel Sky One, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday evening back in the U.K.

Deal was confirmed by CBS Paramount International TV prexy Armando Nunez, who is hosting the daily screenings of his company’s new shows on the Paramount lot this week.

Nunez told Daily Variety that the feedback from foreign buyers on other of his eight new shows has been great, and that further deals would be concluded in the next few days.

Others studios around town are also hosting waves of the 1,500 buyers on a daily basis and said they too will likely close some deals before the weekend. The Screenings is the first chance each year for program buyers from around the world to purchase the new U.S. network series for their stations back home.

Canadian buyers will wrap up their purchases of U.S. series tonight as they host their own upfronts back home in a couple of weeks.

“Most of the economies abroad are buoyant again and the (U.S.) network business is strong,” Nunez said. Those factors contribute to making this Screenings go-round an active one, he added.

Nunez pointed out to buyers Wednesday morning that the company’s CBS network was No. 1 in a variety of demos, and that his new shows generally have locked in strong time periods. He also said CBS’s sister network UPN was making noticeable strides.

“Threshold,” for example, will be sandwiched between newcomer “Ghost Whisperer” and “Numbers” at 10 p.m. on the Eye web.

“The sci-fi thriller has the capacity to reach a broader audience than just core sci-fi fans,” said BSkyB’s head of content James Baker, “and should be a nice addition to our schedule.”

Last year, Sky snapped up the edgy HBO Western “Deadwood,” which is also licensed abroad by CBS Paramount. The British satcaster also airs CBS Paramount’s paranormal drama “The 4400.”

Buyers on the Paramount lot Wednesday also gave high marks to the Chris Rock sitcom “Everybody Hates Chris,” a riff on the 1980s upbringing of a working-class black kid modeled on Rock.

Producer Ali Leroi was on the lot to gladhand with the 250-odd foreign program buyers, saying he and Rock would be “doing whatever” to support the show abroad and that despite its ethnic specificity, the show dealt with universal themes.

A Polish buyer, a Dutch buyer and an Asian buyer, for example, all told Daily Variety they “really liked” the show, though they declined to say whether their stations would end up buying it.

Comedies, particularly ethnic ones, typically don’t travel that well abroad, but, as Nunez pointed out, there was “The Bill Cosby Show,” and it was a huge international success. “If a show’s well done, it works wherever,” he said.

Dramas like “Threshold” can bring in upwards of $750,000 an episode all told from foreign deals; laffers generally rake in half that sum.

This is Nunez’s first LA Screenings in which he has oversight of both the CBS and the Paramount catalogs, and he said the trick, and his goal, is to maximize the possibilities for all the product in his portfolio.

“We have the largest and most diverse catalog of any of the major distributors,” he said. “Some 60,000 hours of programming, including 3,600 movie titles.”

Those shows include reality stalwarts “Survivor” and “America’s Top Model,” top talkers “Oprah” and “Dr. Phil,” and veteran gameshows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” as well as the more talked-about drama series and feature films.

As for those movies, Nunez told buyers that under Tom Freston and Brad Grey — the new management team overseeing Paramount Pictures — the company’s slate is being “reinvigorated” and international rights are being retained wherever possible.

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