Mediaset chases English audiences

Pilot for 'Four Single Fathers' to shoot in US

MILAN Italo broadcaster Mediaset, buffeted by falling share prices due to weakened ad revs — including losing 5% of its value in one day — is ramping up its content production with an eye on global sales.

A key plank in the strategy, per Mediaset’s director of fiction, Giancarlo Scheri, is to make TV series in English. After all, Mediaset may have sold dozens of programs abroad, but many of these have been one-off sales to Albania.

The first of these is romantic comedy “Four Single Fathers,” whose pilot will be helmed in the U.S. this summer by Gabriele Muccino, the Italo director behind the Will Smith starrer “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

Scheri says a raft of pilots with an eye to worldwide distribution will follow “Four Single Fathers,” and many of these will be in English.

Mediaset’s own terrestrial Canale 5 will show a dubbed version. Comedy will figure heavily for Mediaset, too. Scheri cites the recent success of “I Cesaroni,” the Italo version of hit Spanish laffer “Los Serrano” — as evidence the genre translates well.

Using talent from the bigscreen is another plank in Mediaset’s strategy. Scheri says big-name directors are now happy to move into TV. 

“These days TV’s not seen as the poor relation. Some of the biggest stars, like George Clooney, came from TV and many are happy to go back and work in TV,” he says.

Within Italy, the strategy seems to be to bring in American-style hit shows. In August, Canale 5 will broadcast its new U.S.-style series, “Chirurgia d’urgenza,” (Emergency Surgery) directed by Alessandro Piva, another name from cinema. Other new Italian-language series include the  “Sex and the City”-inspired “Amiche Mie,” to be broadcast this fall.

Scheri says last year’s team-up of Mediaset film unit Medusa and TV drama producer Taodue, and the purchase of Endemol, underline how Mediaset sees the distinction between TV and cinema blurring.

“But the key is quality,” he says. “We want to use the best writers, best actors and the best directors to achieve this. Then we’ll have products with the potential to be successful around the world.”

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