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‘Falls’ marks ACI’s bow in int’l series distrib’n

Syndicator ACI is joining only a handful of other indies in distributing an American prime time network series in the international market, traditionally the terrain of major studios and networks.

Until now, ACI’s entire domestic and international focus has been on telepix and miniseries produced by 14 producers associated with the company.

But ACI has confirmed that it acquired international distribution rights to “Angel Falls,” the new CBS prime time soap that will inherit “Knots Landing’s” 10 p.m. Thursday slot this fall (Daily Variety, May 26).

The series is from the Konigsberg/Sanitsky Co., a major producer of movies and minis whose partners are among the principals in ACI.

“Angel Falls” represents the first of many TV series that ACI hopes to represent, says ACI prez Jamie Bennett, who notes the company’s founding producers have other series in development.

ACI also has several firstrun syndie projects in the pipeline and is looking at acquiring programming from outside producers.

On another development front, the company is negotiating with Britain’s ITV networks to make six two-hour telefilms with strong European content.

None of the distributor’s partners are obligated to provide their product to the company, but producer Larry Sanitsky says K/S opted to take “Angel Falls” to ACI because of his familiarity with the operation.

International sales will be instrumental in the financial success of the show , which is expected to cost more than $ 1 million per epiosde.

A network license fee won’t be determined until the remaining eight stars of the 10-member ensemble cast are signed, with Sanitsky saying Peggy Lipton and James Brolin are the first two aboard.

Sagansky order

CBS originally earmarked “Angel Falls” as a summer series, but network entertainment prez Jeff Sagansky ordered it for fall without a pilot after reading the initial scripts. The Eye Web has provided a six-episode order, with 13 more possible for the first season if it makes the cut.

Prime time serials have traditionally sold well in Europe, the largest and most lucrative international market, which has been steadily moving toward domestically produced hours.

Because there are fewer hours on the networks’ fall skeds than last season, Bennett says he expects a tight marketplace at this month’s informal Los Angeles May screenings for international buyers. But he notes it’s too early to tell if that will translate into higher prices.

Mini aspirations

K/S and other ACI producers had previously opted to go elsewhere with their series, but the distribution company has grown in the past year as part of Bennett’s desire to turn ACI into a mini-studio.

Bennett has taken steps to beef up operations, including the launch of a domestic syndication wing and the formation of a five-person London office under the direction of the company’s exec vice president Brian Harris, who serves as managing director of ACI Int’l.

The move into the series arena has come earlier than expected, according to Harris.

“It is something that we’ve been discussing for awhile,” he says, noting that ACI plunged in so quickly because “Angel Falls” meets the Europeon networks’ criteria: original and produced on a large scale — like Montana, for instance, where the series is set.