Fox deal gooses interest in comedies

SYDNEY — Most Aussie webs use the L.A. Screenings just to view product coming out of their long-standing output deals with the U.S. networks. But Network Ten and paybox Foxtel will be paying particular attention to this year’s 20th Century Fox content after recently inking a unique joint output deal with the web.

“We’ve never had that sort of level of opportunity before,” Ten chief programming officer David Mott says. “From Ten’s point of view, it has probably been the one missing link in terms of volume. We haven’t been able to be as comfortable with our studio deals as the other networks have. We’re in the best shape we’ve ever been in.”

Mott adds he is looking for “two to three solid one-hours and a couple of half-hours” to boost his sked. He is particularly enthusiastic about the new Stateside laffers.

“I’m seeing at the moment maybe the rebirth of the sitcom,” he says. “We’re delighted that (‘Back to You’) has been picked up for 13 half-hours and the Kirstie Alley series ‘The Minister of Divine’ is reading very well.”

Foxtel says it will look for a broad range of product to stock its spread of channels but, like Ten, will be keeping a particularly close eye on Fox.

“With the Fox product, we are contractually bound to roll out day-and-date with the U.S., so the Fox series we pick from the Screenings this year will roll out in the latter half of this year and right through the first half of ’08 and every year thereafter,” says Foxtel television and marketing topper Brian Walsh.

Seven Network and Nine Network have no new deals in place, but Nine hopes that any L.A. Screenings pickups will help it in its close ratings race with Seven, which looks as if it may finish on top for the first time in two decades.

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