A yearning for Yank TV

Shows on offer include 'Earl,' 'Chris,' 'Commander'

With decent Stateside ratings in hand, “Earl,” “Chris” and Geena Davis are hoping to entice overseas program buyers on the Cannes Croisette beginning Oct. 17.

That’s when the 21st annual Mipcom TV trade show unspools, and the half-dozen Hollywood heavyweight distribs are hoping to ride a wave of enthusiasm for Yank shows in primetime abroad.

The aforementioned fall frosh series — “My Name Is Earl,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Commander in Chief” — are just three of the thousands of shows from around the world on offer at the annual program sales bazaar.

A record 13,000 participants will trek to the French Riviera rendezvous, which lasts five days, preceded by two-day kids sales bazaar Mipcom Jr.

The Hollywood majors are to a man upbeat about their own re-energized foreign biz, the signals of which are everywhere:

  • Paramount has licensed all of its eight frosh primetime series in the tough U.K. market.

  • Disney has signed its first-ever deals on European cell phones for recaps and previews of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

  • Warners comes to the Croisette with good ratings stories to tell on several of its frosh series — “Invasion,” which has the post-“Lost” berth on ABC, “Reunion” and “Supernatural.”

  • Fox can tout the “stickiness” of “Prison Break” and a promising perf for crime drama “Bones.”

None of these early season performances, however, can compare to last year’s out-of-the-box success for ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” which paid off abroad with a dynamite year for distributor Disney.

Those joined good performances in foreign territories from the tripartite juggernaut “CSI,” which is licensed to TV stations abroad by Canuck-owned indie Alliance Atlantis, and from the Dick Wolf “Law & Order” franchise, sold by NBC Universal. Latter is even getting the format treatment in France, where top-rated station TF1 has decided to do its own Gallicized procedural version of “Criminal Intent” in primetime.

“We’re witnessing the renaissance of American shows in primetime abroad,” Alliance Atlantis distribution topper Ted Riley told Daily Variety.

A pickup in most TV advertising markets abroad has swelled the wallets that program buyers bring to market, which should help make this Mipcom a lively, upbeat affair.

Disney’s top European sales exec Tom Toumazis said, “We’re coming off of the biggest year in our history in terms of international TV revenues.”

All of the half-dozen key U.S. distributors are betting on hefty prices for their series — with several suggesting that hot-ticket dramas are going for as much as $1 million an episode abroad.

Mipcom’s TV topper Paul Johnson reckons that e2.5 billion ($3 billion) worth of business will have been written at each of the two Reed Midem-backed TV trade shows, next week’s Mipcom and March’s Mip TV. (Like Daily Variety, Reed Midem is a unit of Anglo-Dutch conglom Reed Elsevier.)

Going mobile

The impressive amount of money changing hands around these markets doesn’t even take into account the new windows for audiovisual content opening up on mobile devices — a focus of the Mipcom panel sessions this go-round.

Other indications of a likely upbeat mood on the Croisette:

Reality powerhouse FremantleMedia has doubled the size of its stand and hired several sales execs; Euro players Granada, TF1 and RTL are fielding their own sizeable programming slates; and new channels are sprouting up here and there in ever narrower niches.

FremantleMedia is bringing several British-originated formats to market, including “Dail a Mum,” a holistic makeover show in which a crack team of four troubleshooting mothers — each with her own specialist skills — race to the public’s help.

High on Granada’s slate is another “Cracker” telepic with Robbie Coltrane returning as the flawed criminal psychologist Fitz, and “Eleventh Hour,” toplining Patrick Stewart in a series of self-contained investigative thrillers.

Factual programming and reality formats continue to be the bread-and-butter of smaller indies, both established distribs and newcomers to the market.

Mart smart for small fry

These companies need venues like Mipcom more urgently than the big players, who field reps around the world and whose product is often sold in huge packages rather than piecemeal.

The range of product the little guys are bringing to the Mediterranean mart is wider than ever.

Clear Channel Entertainment TV is taking a stand for the first time, banking on its bag of music and sports programming rights.

“This convention will tell a lot for us,” company prexy Joe Townley told Daily Variety. “We think there’s an upswing and that there will be active buying, for bigger dollars.”

Michel Rodrigue, whose Canuck company Distraction specializes in reality formats like the parody soap “Sins of Love,” is similarly upbeat about the biz.

“There’s a particularly big opening right now for scripted formats, especially with European pubcasters who previously didn’t show much interest,” he said.

Rodrigue points to Wolf’s deal with TF1 to make a Gallic version of “Criminal Intent” as improving prospects for foreign versions of scripted shows.

Bennett Media Worldwide, a new L.A.-based distrib specializing in high-def product, will offer “The Extremists,” which focuses on offbeat sports stars.

London-based September is bringing back “Bridezillas,” a series about brides-to-be who turn into matrimonial monsters.

Breakthrough Entertainment, a Toronto-based company, is launching “Between the Sheets,” a “how to” series for couples looking to improve their sex lives.

Distrib finds religion

VisionTV Intl. will for the first time bring a catalog of religion-tinged programming. Titles include “The End of Suburbia,” an exploration of the American way of life in the face of dwindling fossil fuels, and “Mystic Women of the Middle Ages,” which looks at female figures who claimed a direct, personal relationship with God and achieved unprecedented earthly power.

And with deals for Canada and the Philippines already inked, distrib WPT Enterprises is betting it can entice buyers to license rights to make localized versions of its “World Poker Tour.”

The trade show wraps Oct. 21.

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