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‘Baywatch’ buyer

Pearson gets global rights; Brooks chief guard

Pearson Television has given a vote of confidence to the world’s most popular show, “Baywatch.”

Pearson has acquired international distribution rights for “Baywatch” and its alter ego “Baywatch Hawaii” from the Fremantle Corp. Deal includes the first 199 episodes of the library as well as this season’s and all future programs of the actioner.

Prior to the acquisition, Pearson, which produced the series, only owned domestic distribution rights.

Company execs also confirmed that the program will return for a 10th season in syndication minus its star David Hasselhoff by upping cast member Jason Brooks as the program’s new lead character.

“We are delighted that we have now brought all the episodes of this valuable franchise into the Pearson catalog of programs,” said Brian Harris, managing director of Pearson Television Intl. “The sales performance by the Fremantle Corp., with network and satellite sales reaching hundreds of millions of people around the globe, has given the series the deserved reputation of being the world’s most watched television program.”

“Baywatch” premiered on NBC during the 1989-90 season with Hasselhoff starring as Malibu’s top lifeguard. The Peacock declined to renew the series for a second season.

At that point, Fremantle chairman/CEO Paul Talbot managed to pump new life into the canceled series by putting together substantial pre-sales from foreign broadcasters, and the show was brought back into domestic syndication.

After nine seasons, the series was transformed into “Baywatch Hawaii” and is currently shooting in Oahu.

Hasselhoff will continue to exec produce the series with recurring appearances on the show, but the reigns as top dog in the beach house will be passed on to Brooks (“Days of Our Lives”). He bowed in the series this year and will now play the “pivotal character” in the series.

Hasselhoff ankled his starring role to star in BKS Bates’ “AKA Picasso” as a debonair sophisticate. His new series will air in fall 2000.