‘ER’ Series A Smooth Operator Overseas

Warner Bros. Television’s hot hospital drama “ER” debuted in the U.K., Canada and Australia in February, chalking up some of the highest ratings in years for a U.S.-made series on the foreign broadcasters.

While most U.S. series don’t play in primetime slots abroad anymore because of a growing preference for locally made fare, Warners is banking on its success internationally with “ER” to help revive sales and improve timeslot openings for other one-hour formats abroad.

Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Intl. TV Distribution, said, “We’re hoping that ‘ER’ will help break that (non-primetime) mold. We’ve sold it for record license fees, and it’s certainly generating more heat than any other show in recent years.”

In its British debut Feb. 1 – on Channel Four at 9 p.m. – “ER” registered 5.09 million viewers, making it the No. 1 U.S. series on the channel. The series attracted 21% more viewers than the second-ranked U.S. import, “Roseanne.”

“ER” was the third-most popular program overall on Channel Four, behind local soap “Brookside” and docu strand “Cutting Edge.”

In Canada, “ER” is more than doubling its time-period competitors, averaging 2.6 million viewers on CTV Thursdays at 10 p.m. The series is outperforming other high-profile U.S. imports, including the other hospital-set series, “Chicago Hope,” as well as “Seinfeld” and “The X-Files.”

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