Coming off a boffo year for its ABC network Stateside, the Mouse House threw open its doors Sunday night to embrace 1,000 foreign TV execs in town for the annual L.A. Screenings.
At the El Capitan Theater Sunday night, the Disney international unit unveiled its seven new shows as well as its returning slate of 10 series, including four hourlong dramas.
Actress Salma Hayek did the honors, unveiling telenovela-inspired “Betty the Ugly,” which she is exec producing.
Among the returning series are “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” — all of which are pulling in big auds abroad as well as at home.
The company’s sole reality newcomer is called “How to Get the Guy.” Also highlighted for the first time at the Disney Upfronts are shows premiering on the ABC Family Channel: “Kyle XY,” “Lincoln Heights” and “Three Moons Over Milford.”
The 10-day event is the first occasion for foreign program buyers to assess the new network primetime series; the Sunday evening shindig, dubbed the Buena Vista Intl. Upfronts, is the first occasion for the overseas contingent to glimpse series the Mouse House will be distributing abroad. It’s the sixth year Disney has staged the Sunday evening “Upfront” event.
Other studios will be hosting foreign buyers during the week.
Fox, for example, got down to business Friday, on the heels of the domestic upfronts in New York, opening its lot to several hundred registered program buyers.
Kicking off its weeklong huddle with buyers, Buena Vista Worldwide Television prexy Laurie Younger took the opportunity to tout the success of the three returning ABC shows.
“Last year, I told you that high-quality content would drive the appeal of U.S. series internationally, and I can tell you tonight that we have delivered on that promise,” she told buyers.
Each of the three shows airs in 200-odd territories abroad and is reckoned to be pulling in $1 million an episode in foreign license fees.
“In every major territory where ‘Lost’ or ‘Desperate Housewives’ has aired in the past year, those shows have increased every channel’s slot average for all individuals or young adults,” Younger added. In some cases, those stations had no history of putting Yank shows in primetime before taking a chance with these.
Younger also took the opportunity to highlight the overall strategy for the Mouse House, putting the emphasis on Disney topper Bob Iger’s call for quality content, technological innovation and international expansion.
She reassured the foreign broadcast partners that technology initiatives abroad would take account of the company’s existing relationships with them.
“This should not be considered a threat to what we are used to,” she told the assembled buyers.
Following Younger’s remarks, Tom Toumazis, the international unit’s exec VP and managing director for Europe, Mideast and Africa, talked about the new shows his team will be licensing in coming days.
Among the dramas the Mouse House is pitching are “Six Degrees,” from “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams, and “Brothers and Sisters,” a family drama starring Calista Flockhart.
Series stars appeared onstage and to gladhand and party afterward at the Roosevelt Hotel. Among the talent were Flockhart and Rachel Griffiths (“Brothers & Sisters”), David Arquette (“In Case of Emergency”), Taye Diggs (“Day Break”) and Hope Davis and Jay Hernandez (“Six Degrees”).
Producers included not only Abrams and Hayek but also Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Marc Cherry (“Desperate Housewives”) and Mark Gordon (“Grey’s Anatomy”).
Pride of place among the new entries was given to Abrams and the creators and stars of “Six Degrees.” He told the assembled that the new show was about “interconnectivity” and should be universal in appeal.
Abrams’ “Lost” airs in 207 territories around the world.
Two buyers told Daily Variety that didn’t “get” the clip of “Six Degrees” but they’d take a look nonetheless because it’s from, as they put it, “the ‘Lost’ guy.”
Loudest applause went to the assembled “Desperate Housewives” and loudest laughter to the clip of “Betty the Ugly.”
Toumazis also did a rundown of the company’s new platform deals abroad, an indication that such agreements are no longer novelties but regular business.
The Mouse House now has mobile agreements with Vodafone in Italy and the 3 network and Channel 4 in the U.K., the latter for both mobile and online clips. In Korea, Disney is working in partnership with TU Media to wirelessly stream episodes of “Desperate Housewives” and “Alias.”
“We’ve greatly increased the number of VOD agreements across the world — significant business in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Norway and already five separate Japanese partnerships,” Toumazis said.
“Elsewhere,” he told Daily Variety, “reality formats go from strength to strength, with ‘The Amazing Race’ across Central Europe and Asia and ‘Extreme Makeover’ continuing to roll out, most recently to Hungary, Colombia, Dubai, Ukraine and India.”
Like the other Hollywood majors, Disney will hold screenings on its lot through Friday.