They came, they schmoozed, they screened. More than 1,500 television buyers from around the world have made the studio rounds in Los Angeles the past few days, checking out the 50-plus new series that landed orders from major networks last week.
The L.A. Screenings are a lower-profile affair than the upfront presentations mounted in Gotham last week, but in many ways they are equally important. International licensing, to linear and digital platforms, is crucial to funding production, particularly for high-end dramas. Unlike upfronts, which are geared to advertising sales, L.A. Screenings are organized around the studios that control the international distribution rights to shows.
“This is an important week,” said Armando Nunez, president and CEO of CBS Global Distribution Group. “It tees up a (sales) process that depends on the market. Every year there are more channels to put content on. We need to talk to them all and they need to see what we have offer.”
Each of the major studios host several days of pilot screening sessions to give buyers a taste of what’s to come. Some dealmaking is done on the spot, but in many cases buyers return home before the dealmaking begins. Buyers from Canada, the U.K. and Australia tend to move quickly because the competition in those English-lingo markets for top U.S. imports is fierce.
Sony Pictures TV, for one, reached a quick deal with Oz’s Seven network for the anticipated CBS drama “Battle Creek” (pictured), from David Shore and Vince Gilligan, and with Foxtel for the Starz sci-fi vehicle “Outlander.” Seven picked up Sony’s NBC comedy “Marry Me,” which also went to Shaw Media in Canada.
CBS TV Studios was seeing a lot of heat for “Extant,” the summer drama series from Steven Spielberg’s Amblin TV to star Halle Berry. After the success of “Under the Dome” last summer, buyers are clear that CBS’ summer series are hardly cast offs.
Nunez was also happy to have spinoffs of proven franchises “NCIS” and CSI” to showcase this year. CBS’ Tea Leoni starrer “Madam Secretary” — billed as “The West Wing” meets “The Good Wife” — is a harder sell in some territories but having exec producer Morgan Freeman on hand to talk it up has made buyers pay attention.
“Jane the Virgin,” a CW dramedy based on a Venezuelan telenovela, has been generating heat, and not just among Latin American buyers, Nunez said.
Fox’s Fox Intl. Channels unit reached a deal with France’s Canal Plus for the limited-series “Wayward Pines,” from director M. Night Shyamalan.
Disney traditionally kicks off L.A. Screenings with a big presentation and party on the Mouse House lot on the Sunday following upfronts. After a few days of screenings, Disney reports strong interest in the Viola Davis starrer “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Red Band Society” (based on a format from Spain) and fantasy drama “The Whispers.”
NBCUniversal’s production arms have a slew of new drama and comedy series from NBC, USA, Syfy and Bravo screening for buyers. Comedies are always a tougher sell because they usually don’t travel as well as dramas. Stars of new sitcoms are often pressed into a charm offensive to impress buyers. Kate Walsh, of NBC’s “Bad Judge,” has been on the luncheon circuit this week. So has Matthew Perry of CBS’ “Odd Couple” remake.