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MTV has its finger on ‘Buzzer’

Cabler's creative prexy taking risk, pushing envelope with skein

This article was corrected on March 8, 2005.

SYDNEY — “Top Buzzer” may sound like a gameshow but it’s actually a British drama series, commissioned by MTV, about young people who double as drug dealers.

The skein, which doesn’t condone drugs, is unlikely to air in the U.S. or in conservative Asia, but that doesn’t bother Brent Hansen, president of creative at MTV Networks Intl.

“It’s important that MTV takes risks and pushes the envelope,” says Hansen, who expects “Top Buzzer” to air in Europe and in Australia.

Hansen outlined MTV’s programming initiatives and ethos when he delivered the plenary speech at an Australian Subscription Television and Radio Subscription Assn. conference in Sydney on March 2.

Emphasizing the tailoring of MTV channels for various markets, he says: “Brazil is sexy, Italy is stylish, Japan is centered around technology. We even have call-to-prayer five times a day in Indonesia.”

The broadcaster often takes U.S.-created formats such as “TRL (Total Request Live)” and produces local versions in markets such as Oz, Italy, Germany and the U.K. Last year it made 13 episodes of its U.S. dating show “Dismissed” in the Dominican Republic, drawing contestants from assorted territories.

Marie Jacobson, senior VP of programming and production for Sony Pictures Television Intl., told the confab her banner is expanding, turning out 44 gamers and 17 scripted series in various countries.

Describing India as a major focus, she says “Indian Idol” is under way in Mumbai, and she is closing deals to remake two more telenovelas for India, following the success of Sony’s “Betty la fea” (Ugly Betty).

Sony is doing an Indian version of “The Kumars at No. 42,” the British hit that featured an eccentric Indian family in London and their celeb guests.

She said the first season of AXN’s adventure series, “Shakedown,” set in the World Rally championships, has sold to a major U.K. broadcaster and she hopes to produce a U.S. version with a domestic cabler.

Kim Williams, chief exec of Oz’s dominant paybox Foxtel, urged the government not to allow the free-to-air webs to launch extra channels until 2008, to give his company time to recoup its hefty investment in its digital platform.

He announced Foxtel and regional satcaster Austar will co-finance a second series of local drama “Love My Way,” produced by Southern Star, which will sell international rights.

Williams taunted the free-to-air nets, whose execs have dismissed the ratings of individual feevees, by noting 56.1% of connected homes watched pay TV in the week of Feb. 20-26, a record for that time of year.

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