Networks in dance over 'Singing'

ITV and NBC are in tune over “The Great American Singing Bee,” a musical quizzer format from producers Phil Gurin (“Weakest Link”) and Bob Horowitz (“Battle of the Network Reality Stars”).

Blighty broadcaster and the Peacock are developing separate versions of the format, in which contestants “sing in the blanks” when presented with partial song lyrics. More interesting than the format itself, however, is how the deal went down in the U.K.

In a highly unusual move, ITV snatched up the format rights to “Singing Bee” after seeing nothing more than an outline of the idea — a so-called paper format. When it comes to American producers, British networks almost always demand to see a filmed pilot of a potential skein before moving forward.

Idea for “Singing Bee” came from Horowitz, prexy of Juma Entertainment. He pitched it to Gurin, and the two decided to pair up to sell the project together.

Horowitz “came to me and said, ‘Two words: Singing bee,’ ” Gurin said. “I said, ‘Bingo,’ and we began developing it.”

Gurin was “quick to see the domestic potential, but also excited to use his international relationships to test our format abroad,” Horowitz said. “The interest shown by global territories illustrates that a simple and entertaining format, centered in the universal language of music, works.”

ITV will tape a 90-minute backdoor pilot that’s expected to air as a special on the net’s Saturday lineup. Net will change the title, most likely to “Singing Bee” or “Sing in the Blank.”

NBC is still finalizing a deal for the format, but the net is expected to order a pilot that will be fast-tracked for production.

Each episode of “Singing Bee” will likely start with 28 contestants onstage. Rather than spelling words, they’ll be winnowed down by being asked to sing a word, phrase or entire verse of a song, depending on the round. Producers may also try to trip up players with frequently misunderstood lyrics.

“It’s a musical gameshow where you don’t have to know any trivia or know how to sing,” Gurin said.

Producer said he’s upbeat about the future possibilities of American producers selling format rights to the U.K. based on outlines.

“It’s an exciting development as we start to build our international business,” Gurin told Daily Variety.

NBC isn’t the only U.S. broadcaster chasing the musical beat. CBS is developing a new take on “Name That Tune.”

Gurin Co.’s expanding slate includes the ABC quizzer pilot “Wanna Bet?” and GSN’s “Lingo.” He also produces the red carpet specials for TV Guide Channel and Fox’s New Year’s Eve specials.

Horowitz formed Juma in 2005, after he left IMG’s TV arm. Company’s credits include the “Fashion Rocks” specials for CBS and “Reality All-Star Reunion” for Bravo.

Deal for “Singing Bee” was agented by WMA reps in Los Angeles and Blighty.

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