It’s not HBO — it’s Showtime Down Under

Oz pay movie service picking up miniseries

SYDNEY – Australia’s leading pay movie service Showtime is gradually transforming itself into an Oz equivalent of HBO, snapping up high-profile U.S. miniseries and commissioning its first mini.

Chief exec Peter Rose wants to establish 8.30 p.m. Wednesday as the slot for exclusive, must-see programming.

He will bow drug skein “Traffic: The Miniseries,” which Showtime acquired from Universal, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10.

Counter-terrorism saga “The Grid,” which preemed Stateside on TNT, will follow in October. “Deadwood,” HBO’s David Milch-created oater, is skedded for November.

Showtime has also commissioned “Mango River” (working title), a four-hour mini, from producers Kennedy Miller.

Penned by Ian David and to be helmed by Michael Jenkins, “River” is about the hunt for the perpetrators of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Mini will be funded by Showtime, regional satcaster Austar and the Australia Film Finance Corp.

It is Kennedy Miller’s first TV venture since “Bangkok Hilton” in 1989, as the company has focused on movies, including “Babe” and its sequel.

“This kind of programming should help reduce churn, grow subscribers and generate more revenues so we can do more of these productions,” says Rose, whose goal is eventually to back two or three Oz minis a year.

He said Austar and Foxtel, Showtime’s distributor, back his push into acquiring and commissioning minis.

Showtime is owned by Sony, Paramount, Universal, Fox and Liberty Media.

“Mango River” will start pre-production next month, and Rose intends to air it in October/November 2005.

Showtime will retain DVD rights in Oz and, given the international theme, is confident it will sell to the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

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