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17th counts on Fox

Teen-book publisher gets into TV prod'n

HOLLYWOOD — Teen-book creator 17th Street Prods. has sealed a deal to mine its youth-oriented fiction titles and create primetime series at 20th Century Fox TV.

Under a two-year pact, 20th Century Fox TV will collaborate with 17th Street to identify potential franchises to exploit. 17th Street, which is owned by teen-centric Web portal Alloy, will have access to 20th’s roster of writers to adapt its fiction properties to the small screen.

20th Century Fox TV (along with Regency TV) previously collaborated with 17th Street on the WB’s teen alien drama “Roswell,” which was adapted from the “Roswell High” book series.

From page to screen

“The way in which ‘Roswell’ was developed — by starting with an engaging book and marrying that with a writer like Jason Katims — was successful,” said 20th Century Fox TV prexy Gary Newman. “These guys know how to develop ideas that appeal to a younger demo.”

17th Street is also known for its “Sweet Valley High” books, which Saban Entertainment turned into a long-running teen skein.

Last year, 17th Street worked with Greenblatt/Janollari Studio and Storyline Entertainment to develop a small-screen version of another series, “The Black Book: Diary of a Teenage Stud.”

Production schemes

As for its new production deal with 20th, 17th Street Prods./Alloy Entertainment prexy Leslie Morgenstein said the company wanted to move beyond just optioning its titles for television.

“We sat down and looked at our strategy and realized that it wasn’t really a business,” Morgenstein said. “What we wanted to do was evolve (into) a full-fledged production company. Fox, for a lot of reasons, was the best fit with us.”

17th Street also will incorporate its Internet assets into the deal when appropriate.

“We have a database of (7.5) million teens who have given us their names,” Morgenstein said. “We can reach them through print and online media.”

Morgenstein said the 20th deal is separate from any publishing pact with the studio’s News Corp. cousin HarperCollins. But 17th Street has worked in the past with the imprint, which published its “Black Book,” “Fingerprints” and others.

17th Street franchises ripe to be exploited include the upcoming “Gossip Girl,” set to be released by Little, Brown, which follows the lives of teens as chronicled by an Upper East Side columnist.

Concurrently, Morgenstein has hired network vet Bob Levy, who most recently served as vice president of primetime series at NBC, to head up 17th Street’s TV production unit.

“We come from a different place than most producers, the literary book world, and Bob seemed to get that,” Morgenstein said. “He seemed to appreciate what we’re trying to do.”

Veteran attraction

Newman said he was also attracted to the 17th Street deal because of Levy.

“The idea that Bob would be spearheading their development efforts cemented our interest,” Newman said. “Every time we’ve had an opening here, Bob has been on our radar.”

Levy, who started with the company Aug. 1, said he’ll meet with 20th Century Fox TV writers in the coming weeks to expose them to 17th Street material.

“We’re being aggressive about trying to get out there quickly,” he said.

The William Morris Agency and attorney Jeanne Newman repped 17th Street in the 20th deal.

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