Bidders play peek-a-boo with U.S.

ROME — Stateside dramas “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy” don’t play on the top channels, but that doesn’t mean Italian buyers from webs both free and pay aren’t hot for the latest Hollywood series.

“There is a growing interest in U.S. series,” says Mediaset buyer Francesco Mozzetti, before hastening to add, “just not to air them on our the flagship stations.”

While Mozzetti says local fiction is ousting Hollywood pics from primetime slots, series like “Grey’s” have consolidated their appeal on secondary channels like Mediaset’s youth-oriented Italia Uno, where “Grey’s,” “House” and “CSI” fill three primetime slots per week.

“We have been explaining this to the majors, and I think they understand it,” Mozzetti says.

At last year’s L.A. Screenings, top Italian commercial web Mediaset bought “Ugly Betty” and “Heroes,” both of which will soon also air on Italia Uno. This time around, Mediaset is hoping to build upon that promising product.

Enthusiasm is lower at pubcaster RAI, where a push is under way to become more public service-oriented — which means airing more Italian and European dramas and movies.

That said, RAI recently bought “Jericho” and could also use a few other strong Yank series to replace reality shows, which RAI prexy Claudio Petruccioli recently said must be phased out as part of the pubcaster’s less-commercial new mandate.

Not surprisingly, Italy’s single paybox, Rupert Murdoch-owned Sky Italia, makes U.S. skeins a pillar of its programming.

“American TV series are very important for us because it is product with a very clearly defined profile, in terms of target demographic,” says Fabrizio Salini, vice president and head of Fox Entertainment Channels Italy. “For us, L.A. Screenings is the year’s most important market.”

“Lost,” which flopped on RAI, is doing gangbusters on Fox Channels where, compared with terrestrial, there is more room for offbeat stuff.

“We really believe in comedies with some edge like ‘The Office,’ ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘My Name Is Earl,’” Mozzetti says.

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