Fremantle Corp. president and founder Paul Talbot died Wednesday in Brewster, Mass. He was 86.
Talbot was instrumental in developing the concept of selling American TV formats internationally and also pioneered the TV barter syndication business.
Talbot began his show business career in the 1930s as a performer in live radio soap operas. He appeared on early CBS TV shows before WWII and worked as a writer on the “Superman” and “Batman” comicbooks in the 1950s.
He created Fremantle in 1952, setting up offices in Europe, Canada, Australia and Latin America to distribute American programs. Among the shows he sold worldwide were “Romper Room,” “Biography,” “The Galloping Gourmet,” “Baywatch,” “The Price Is Right” and “All My Children.”
In 1958 Variety chronicled Talbot’s exploits abroad with the headline “Fremantle’s flock of overseas sales,” noting that the company had amassed a record number of deals on shows as diverse as “Hopalong Cassidy” and “You Are There.”
From the early ’50s, Talbot realized there was a hunger for commercial fare around the world, even in countries whose governments kept a tight lid on programming.
In the 1960s, Talbot produced local, live adaptations of children’s series “Romper Room” in 25 different countries. Representing Goodson-Todman and Chuck Barris, he sold format rights and then co-produced gameshows including “Family Feud,” “Password,” “The Newlywed Game” and “The Dating Game” in local editions around the globe.
By the 1980s, Fremantle and its British subsid, Talbot Television, had become the largest producers of gameshows in the world. Barter, which became a widely used economic model for the domestic syndication biz, kicked off in the late 1960s with daytime cooking program “The Galloping Gourmet,” which was sent to stations around the U.S. with ad spots built directly into the reel.
Talbot rescued “Baywatch” after it was canceled in 1989, leveraging international sales to finance future seasons. “Baywatch” went on to revive firstrun syndication in America and became the most-watched TV show in the world. He placed “Baywatch” in practically every territory, ending with Papua New Guinea in 1999.
A fixture on the distribution scene for decades, Talbot cut a gentlemanly swathe on the Croisette during the Mip and Mipcom trade shows in Cannes and during the NATPE confab Stateside.
He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Susan; a daughter; and three sons.
Donations may be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, 432 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016.