Fox, HarperCollins team on tomes, TV

Fox Television Studios is teaming with News Corp. sibling HarperCollins to develop books into TV series and to turn TV writers into authors.

Partnership kicked off with the announcement Tuesday that the studio will develop series based on Lisa Scottoline’s bestselling “Rosato” series of legal thrillers, and that it has optioned Elizabeth Noble bestseller “The Reading Group.”

Agreement is essentially a first-look deal for the studio on Harper titles in the mystery and romance genres; other categories may be added later.

FTVS producer Karen Glass will work out of the publisher’s Gotham offices, sitting in on editorial meetings and combing for projects sometimes even before they are bought, Harper topper Jane Friedman said. Glass will also scour the backlist for development fodder.

“As everybody is talking about multiplatform, the publishing world is not really thought of, and it should be,” said Fox TV Studios prexy Angela Shapiro-Mathes.

Exec said the agreement could yield development deals for a range of formats, including traditional series, limited series, miniseries and TV movies, as well as content specifically for the studio’s digital platforms, such as mobile and the Web.

Shapiro-Mathes also said that if the studio liked an author’s work, but didn’t think his book would work as an adaptation, it may enlist the scribe to write directly for TV. “The key here is that it’s all creatively driven,” she said.

And pitches at the studio may be developed into books if they pass muster with what Shapiro-Mathes called “the book filter.”

Since replacing David Grant two years ago, Shapiro-Mathes has brought on a number of high-profile series to complement longer running productions like “The Shield.” Unit recently inked a five-year exclusive deal with Simon Cowell.

Deal follows a number of similar pacts over the last six months, including the creation of a financing and title pipeline between Random House and Focus Features, and a first-look deal between Walden Media and the Penguin Group.

But Friedman singled out this partnership as unique because of the television focus and digital platforms.

Though there are adaptations of some Harper books on 20th Century Fox’s summer slate, News Corp. units generally run autonomously, and the move reps the first-ever formalized agreement between a studio and print unit within a conglom.

Similar deals have sometimes elicited concern from agents and creators, who say that selling to a publisher with a Hollywood pact could limit their ability to unbundle film and TV rights and sell them on the open market.

Books also had a rough ride in the TV world this past season, with two skeins based on tomes, “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” and “Love Monkey,” failing to find an audience.

And some conglom execs have said that synergy works best when it’s spontaneous instead of formal.

But Fox TV Studios and Harper said that without staffers in the office and agreements in place, synergies are ultimately scattershot. “At ABC, it was very hit or miss, and there was nothing set in place,” said Shapiro-Mathes of her time at the net working with Hyperion. “We’re aiming at putting a system in place.”

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