Distributor to make local versions of reality series

Endemol has cut a deal with Jerry Seinfeld to serve as the international distrib for his nonscripted NBC skein “The Marriage Ref.”

Endemol will produce localized versions of the show as well as shop the segs produced for NBC to foreign TV outlets. It will also manage digital rights, licensing and marketing efforts for the foreign editions. It’s the first wide-ranging distrib pact Endemol has struck for a non-Endemol production since the company decided to move in that direction a few years ago.

Seinfeld is exec producing the series in a partnership with “Oprah Winfrey Show” alum Ellen Rakieten. “Marriage Ref” will revolve around couples who hash out their disagreements, major and minor, before a panel of comedians and other celebs. NBC plans to air the series in the Sunday 8 p.m. timeslot in March, following its Winter Olympics coverage.

Endemol was seen as a good fit with the show for worldwide distribution because of its extensive production infrastructure in 26 major territories, allowing it to spearhead production of localized versions. Shed Media is handling production of the series in the U.S., with Shed’s Nick Emmerson and Jennifer O’Connell also exec producing with Seinfeld and Rakieten.

Rakieten said they’re confident the show will have strong appeal in overseas markets because marital strife is such a universal issue. “Marriage Ref” calls for the couples to air grievances before a panel of “opinionated experts” who will make suggestions. The host of the show, aka the “ref,” will make the final call in settling the couple’s dispute, Rakieten said. Producers are in the process of settling on a comic with Seinfeld-ian sensibilities for the host role.

Lensing on the six hourlong episodes ordered by NBC will begin early next year in New York. Rakieten and other producers have been traveling around the country holding auditions for couples — of all sexual orientations — to appear on the show.

Tom Toumazis, chief commercial officer at Endemol Group, said he sees strong potential for digital extensions — Webisodes, behind-the-scenes bits, etc. — of the show in markets where auds are accustomed to such enhancements.

“We’re going to be working closely with Jerry and Ellen in the forthcoming months to make sure that we’re in synch with their vision for the (NBC) show,” he said.

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