WB touts new shows

Studio's product dominates L.A. Screenings

Predicting the upcoming fall schedule would represent “a true championship season” for his studio, Warner Bros. TV prexy Peter Roth unveiled a record 16 new shows and 14 returning series to 350 foreign TV buyers Monday on the Burbank lot.

“No other studio,” Roth said, “can boast 15 new shows sold or six out of 10 returning ones from last year.”

The studio topper also pointed to the overall ratings success of Warner shows across all U.S. networks, dismissing by implication those rival international suppliers who’ve been suggesting that it’s better, and potentially more profitable, to have fewer shows picked up.

In the last few years, Fox owned bragging rights as the No. 1 supplier of series to the foreign market, but this year Warner led the pack by a considerable margin. (Fox was second, Paramount third.)

By Daily Variety‘s count, Warner and Fox together account as suppliers for almost 50% of the total number of shows aired on the six U.S. nets in primetime.

Swinging with ‘Tarzan’

Roth and Warner Bros. Intl. TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger gave pride of place to the WB net’s teen-targeted “Tarzan and Jane,” which the execs said they believed would be an obvious “breakout hit” in the U.S.

The pilot seemed to go over well with buyers, several of whom said during a break Monday that they liked “the chemistry” between the two leads and the pacing and the tone.

“It’s delightful, maybe implausible sometimes, but young people will like it,” one buyer said. She wasn’t sure if her station would buy it, however.

As in the U.S., most major territories abroad now have a teen-oriented station or at least a teen block on one or another mainstream station. That could play to Warners’ advantage, since, thanks to corporate synergy, it is now the sole supplier of series to the young-skewing WB net.

Some 900 buyers from overseas TV stations are in town for the annual L.A. Screenings and are spending the week assessing the new primetime shows on offer from Hollywood suppliers.

Warners is hosting all-day screenings events throughout the week and screening eight or 10 pilots, including Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Cold Case” and “Fearless” as well as the upcoming HBO series “Carnivale” and a handful of sitcoms.

New opportunities

Although most of the Hollywood majors still have ongoing output deals with foreign stations, such deals have become less all-encompassing and shorter-term. That means there’s more opportunity at the L.A. Screenings for foreign execs to actually buy individual series on the open market.

Warner execs expect to close some deals during the week, though most major broadcasters will mull their options over the summer.

Meanwhile, over at the Disney lot, another sizable contingent of buyers spent the morning screening Disney’s sitcom “Hope & Faith” and actioners “Threat Matrix” and “Line of Fire.”

The Mouse House also unveiled several just-closed deals for current and library product.

The recently remastered 1967 “Spider-Man” animated series and the latest installment of the Power Rangers’ live-action franchise, “Ninja Storm,” were just licensed to South African paybox KTV.

And in a series of multigenre agreements in Scandinavia — with TV2 Denmark, TV 3 Sweden, Norway and Denmark and TV4 in Sweden — shows like “Alias,” movies like “Spy Kids” and “The Princess Diaries” and blocks of Disney branded children’s shows have been licensed.

Disney TV Intl. prexy David Hulbert told Daily Variety Monday his company has just spent $30 million to upgrade its rights management system, freeing up salespeople to liaise with clients.

Hulbert said his division was placing more execs in foreign hub territories to work more closely with foreign stations.

The other major suppliers — Fox, Paramount, Universal, Sony and MGM — also staged screenings Monday.

Making ‘Whoopi’ pact

Indie distrib Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, fielding new fall sitcom “Whoopi,” reportedly is close to a deal for that show with Sony’s entertainment channel in Latin America.

The panregional channel did renew two other C-W-M sitcoms — “That ’70s Show” and “Grounded for Life” — and licensed reruns of those shows.

In an effort to spend more quality time with overseas program buyers, who increasingly are monopolized by the majors, cabler E! Entertainment TV is flying 30 buyers to see Celine Dion’s show in Las Vegas Wednesday.

Finally, NATPE’s newly minted prexy Rick Feldman met with 25 distributors Monday at the Park Hyatt to ascertain their commitment to January’s confab in Vegas.

Distribs mostly griped about the cost of setting up shop on the NATPE convention floor, saying they could do much of their business by simply exhibiting at the Venetian Hotel. Feldman said NATPE would be coming up with initiatives that would make it worthwhile for distributors to be on the floor proper.

(Eileen Tasca contributed to this report.)

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