Studio will offer localized versions of shows
Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution is about to join the ranks of studios that offer localized versions of popular shows.Studio has formed a global unit with the intention of ramping up programming — both reality and scripted — that would meet specific needs for each territory. To oversee the operation, Warner Bros. has hired Ronald Goes as exec VP and head of international TV production. Goes, a native of the Netherlands, will be based in the U.K. and report to Jeffrey Schlesinger, the studio’s global TV prexy. Goes will set up production companies in key territories by partnering with local producers, creating companies or acquiring existing ones and providing them with funding. He will identify which territories would fit well with Warner Bros.’ programs. “This will initially focus more on the non-scripted arena rather than scripted,” Schlesinger told Daily Variety. “What we’re really looking at doing is producing local versions of shows like ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘There Goes the Neighborhood,’ instead of licensing the rights to third-party producers. “We expect to both build and buy production companies to execute this strategy in selected territories, as well as develop alliances with producers in other territories where they’ll have a first look at the product in return for us sharing in the production fees as well as format fees.” Under the new strategy, a Gallic version of “The Mentalist,” for example, could be remade in France with local actors, backdrops and storylines. First up, Warner Bros. had made a deal with Jerry Bruckheimer, whose shingle is based at the studio, to do local versions of “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace,” which would air on commercial broadcaster TF1 in France. Those versions would not interfere with sold U.S. versions of the show. Schlesinger said it wouldn’t be cost effective to do new versions of shows where the American version is faring well. “If one broadcaster has a show, we don’t want to undermine the value of that program to the broadcaster by licensing the rights to a local version of that show in the market,” Schlesinger said. “However, we may work with a broadcaster on a local program that is inspired by the original show, but that is unique and distinct enough to not conflict with the original. Obviously, it works best when both the original version and the local version are with the same broadcaster.” NBC Universal has formatted its “Law and Order” franchise in Russia, France and the U.K. The Brit version was the most successful transfer as ITV1 just greenlit a 13-episode second season of “Law and Order: UK.” The first season ran Feb. 23-April 6. Some studios have been slow to create local versions of hit shows and have questioned the financial upside of the proposition, especially in a tough economic market. Schlesinger said the studio would not format a scripted show without the consent of the producer and creator. Before arriving at Warner Bros., Goes was a member of the supervisory board of RTL Nederland after having been CEO of Talpa, the Dutch media holding company of John de Mol.