Screenings buyers say quality is up

Kudos for '24,' Canucks grab 'Intent'

HOLLYWOOD — Foreign TV station buyers — now in their fourth day of nonstop screenings of upcoming U.S. TV series — say the quality of what they’ve viewed is, by and large, up from recent years.

Whether that means they’ll actually buy more shows or spend more for them remains to be seen.

Brian Frons, a key buyer for pan-Euro station group SBS, said the quality of U.S. series has improved. He thinks the number of timeslots for scripted shows on the U.S. networks was reduced because of the gameshow and reality crazes.

That means the U.S. networks have spent more time and money on fewer projects. The result, per Frons: better material.

Positive outlook

A number of buyers encountered on the Fox lot Tuesday evening for a screening of “Moulin Rouge” also had positive comments to make on a variety of shows they had seen. These included Fox’s own “24,” a thriller that unravels in real time.

Both James Makawa, VP of acquisitions for the African Broadcast Network, and Jesus Higuera, head of programming for Basque TV, said they expected to make at least some purchases before the Screenings ended.

The Canadians, however, already are making their decisions, as they have to announce their own fall schedules next week.

‘Intent’ to buy

CTV, for example, has just snapped up Dick Wolf’s “Criminal Intent,” the latest installment in the “Law & Order” franchise. The Canadian network also holds rights to the two other “Law & Order” skeins.

Frons, along with several other buyers, pinpointed Disney’s “Alias” as having a lot of potential abroad.

Other buyers, fresh from screenings on the Universal lot, said they were considering U’s animated series “Sitting Ducks” and were “intrigued with” that studio’s midseason offering “The Misadventures of Fiona Plum.”

The 10-day Screenings are, however, not a straightforward buying bazaar: Most major broadcasters abroad have long-term output deals with the Hollywood majors, which mean what they’re getting is predetermined.

Thus, the key buyers are in town for three things: To see what their competitors bought; to see what they themselves have bought (through their output deals); and, only then, to see if there’s anything else left over that’s worth buying.