There are seemingly no boundaries when it comes to the unique financing deals Lions Gate Entertainment’s 2-year-old TV division is striking in the broadcast and cable network and syndie arenas.
An unusual pact with Ford Motor Co. to finance the production of reality series “No Boundaries” is among the company’s latest moves.
Lions Gate began pitching the trek-through-wilderness reality show to broadcast nets last week. It’s based on the format for “71 Degrees North” that Lions Gate licensed from Norway’s Nordisk Film TV.
Lions Gate has retitled the show “No Boundaries” for the American market. The title is also the theme for Ford’s SUV marketing campaign.
Per the sponsorship deal made with Ford via its rep J. Walter Thompson, the auto maker will cover the cost of the production in exchange for a negotiable amount of ad time on the network that picks it up.
Internet entrepreneur Seth Bedell, whose company Brandcast specializes in connecting advertisers with original content producers, introduced Lions Gate to J. Walter Thompson.
Lions Gate is asking for no license fee for the project and expects to make its money on the show through ancillary revenue streams and international and domestic syndie runs, Lions Gate exec VP of TV series Kevin Beggs said.
“The way I’ve always worked and the characteristics of Jon Feltheimer’s idea of any dealmaking is to find a hook that distinguishes it from the run of the mill,” Beggs said of his strategy and that of Lions Gate Entertainment vice chairman-CEO Feltheimer, to whom Beggs reports.
Lions Gate Television made another unusual deal recently with its “Who Wants to Date a Hooters Girl?” show, which is being shopped for syndication next fall and has a built-in promo and production partner in Hooters Inc., which operates the restaurants of the same name (Daily Variety, Nov. 3).
Beggs said that the presence of Feltheimer, who segued to Lions Gate Entertainment in March after serving as prexy of Columbia TriStar TV Group, has galvanized the company’s TV biz.
“Since his arrival, the entire company has been benefiting from his expertise and relationships in TV. Now people bring us stuff, where in the past I was chasing people,” Beggs said.
Already on the air from Lions Gate are Pax series “Mysterious Ways” and “Higher Ground,” which has aired on Fox Family Channel.
Other TV projects in the works at Lions Gate include the following:
- “Making a Killing,” a contemporary one-hour mystery series for Pax TV from Joyce Burditt and David Hoffman. Skein concerns a women’s investment club that turns to sleuthing after successfully investigating the death of a diet guru whose stock they had purchased.
- An untitled medical drama from writer Sara Davidson (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”) for Pax. Series centers on a high-powered surgeon who commits himself to alternative medicine after it saves his life, then finds himself pitted against the medical establishment at the hospital where he works.
- “Jeremiah,” a two-hour backdoor pilot for Showtime to be produced in association with Paramount Intl., Television. The creative team includes Joe Dante and J. Michael Straczynski.
- “Ms. Tree,” an action hour series about a female private eye that USA Network is considering. Exec producer-writer Clifton Campbell (“Profiler”) will be the showrunner.
Telepix take off
Lions Gate’s telepic biz is also off and running, with more than 50 hours of sold programming under its belt. Lions Gate Television Pictures exec VP Judy Polone heads up the division.
Among upcoming projects from the division are “Superfire” for ABC. Exec produced by Stephanie Germaine, made-for centers on an elite team of firefighters. Director Stephen Quayle, who did the second unit work on “Titanic,” will direct. Lions Gate hopes to prep in January for a spring shoot.
“The Pilot’s Wife” is cast-contingent at CBS. It’s a two-hour adaptation of the bestseller of the same name.
And Beggs is working with Lions Gate Films Intl. head Joe Drake on producing projects for the new Avalanche banner, which primarily serves the direct-to-video market.
Slated to begin production next year at Lions Gate Studios in Vancouver are three Avalanche titles exec produced by Harold Tichenor: “Cabin Pressure,” about a hacker taking control of the navigation system of a jetliner, penned by Tom Greene; “The Void,” about a ruthless CEO who holds a whistleblower captive, developed and written by Geri Barger with Gil Shilton directing; and “Underground Inferno,” written by Jeff Cohen, about a firefighter’s struggle to rescue hostages when bank robbers set a small town on fire.