“Vanished” got a thumbs up from a number of foreign TV program buyers who viewed the new fall season offerings from Fox on the studio’s back lot Friday.
Show will air Stateside in the 9 p.m. slot behind “Prison Break” — itself a series that has already broken out in a number of overseas territories.
A record 1,500 buyers are assessing the 40-odd new fall and midseason shows that the Hollywood majors are selling abroad. Some will buy on the spot, but most will return home and make decisions during the summer.
Although it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll actually purchase the show, a half dozen of the 240 program buyers encountered at Fox told Daily Variety that the series pilot of “Vanished” seemed to have momentum and room to grow.
“The plot was intriguing and the production values looked good. The question will be whether characterization is as intriguing as that in ’24,’ ” said Karen Bieleski, general manager of New Zealand’s Sky TV.
The drama, about a senator’s wife who goes missing, is exec produced by Paul Redford and Mimi Leder. The latter directed the pilot. Foreign buyers are familiar with the creator of the show, Josh Berman, because he is an exec producer on global franchise “CSI.””The ‘Vanished’ pilot made you want to watch the second episode,” added Alexander Holland, a buyer for pan-Euro satcaster Viasat. His stations, unlike Bieleski’s, have a volume deal with Fox and have to take most of that studio’s shows anyway.
Holland said the various series he gets from Fox and his other suppliers, Warners and Sony, have worked out “pretty well” of late. He also thought James Wood did “an amazing job” in “Shark,” another new series Fox is handling, cautioning that he had to see more to properly evaluate that and other series.
Two other buyers, both from small countries, said they would “consider” the five-night-a-week primetime soaps that will debut in September on MyNetworkTV, which Fox Intl. is licensing abroad.
“The stories may not be subtle (referring to “Table for Three” and “Secret Obsessions”), but the actors are all good-looking, the shows are strippable — and they’ll be cheaper than most primetime series the majors are selling,” said one of the buyers.
Other buyers said it was too early to generalize about this upcoming season’s overall quality, or even the relative merits of each studio’s output.
(The other Hollywood studios also began their screenings sessions Friday or Saturday.)
“For the moment, we’re holding fire. Most years the buzz show is not the one you want to settle on anyway. Sometimes it’s the least likely, unexpected show that becomes the hit for you abroad,” said Danna Stern, head of acquisitions for Yes TV in Israel. (Her station has done well with, of all things, “The Swan” — so much so that “to swan” has become a new verb in her country.)
There are some ironies in the international TV biz that are affecting the dealmaking at this year’s Screenings.
The international buyers are pickier than ever because many American series — from Fox’s “24” and “Prison Break” to Disney’s “Lost” and Warner’s “Without a Trace” — are doing so well abroad that the quality bar has been raised. The buyers expect more.
On the other hand, the Hollywood sellers are pushing hard to up the prices paid for series by international buyers because production costs and payouts to stars are spiraling.
The good news for Fox Intl. TV prexy Mark Kaner and his troops is that so many of their company’s established shows have found prominent berths abroad, starting with “The Simpsons,” which still draws substantial ratings in a variety of foreign territories.
“We have 14 returning and seven new shows for the coming season,” Kaner told the assembled buyers. “And we have at least one show on each of the five (U.S.) broadcast networks.”
Later, Kaner told Daily Variety that the international biz is undergoing a number of rapid changes, among them “the turning of shows into brands” and “collapsing windows.”
He said a product like “24” is not just a show but a franchise that can be exploited across a number of platforms and reconfigured or localized in various ways. (Mobisodes of “24” now air in several foreign territories.)
As for collapsing windows, Kaner said moving toward day-and-date launches abroad for TV series is not only a way to combat piracy but also a way to strengthen promotion and marketing campaigns.
“Our business is moving closer and closer to an on-demand environment, abroad as well as here,” he said.
Like the other major studios, Fox will continue screenings for other waves of buyers throughout the week. IF THIS MUST BE TRIMMED: CUT THIS BELOW: