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BBC, Mediaset ink 3-year prod’n deal

Will create four docu series

ROME — Marking the start of a working relationship between the British pubcaster and Italy’s leading commercial TV player, BBC Worldwide has signed a three-year co-production deal with Mediaset for four docu series and an additional 35 hours of science and natural history programming.

The agreement represents a coup for Mediaset, which in recent months has become more competitive with pubcaster RAI in the area of educational and informative programming. The type of nature programs to be produced as part of the pact have traditionally been strong performers in primetime for RAI.

“Italian public television has always limited itself to the acquisition of scientific documentaries, but has never co-produced them with other European television companies,” said Pier Silvio Berlusconi, Mediaset’s head of scheduling and programming.

Four series are to be produced between 1998 and 2000. Investment in the first three series will total $27.2 million, with the fourth series — which is still at planning stage — estimated to cost around $4.25 million. The extent of Mediaset’s stake in each project was not disclosed.

Tipped for primetime slots in Italy, the series are “The Human Body” (eight segs currently in production); “Walking With Dinosaurs” (six half hours bringing the Jurassic age into the present); “State of the Planet” (eight hours fronted by David Attenborough); and “Indonesia” (a three-part tour of the sprawling group of islands).