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‘NCIS’ ships out with Blighty’s Five

Drama docks at Channel 5

Producer Don Bellisario’s sleeper hit naval drama “NCIS,” now in its third season on CBS, has just docked with Britain’s Channel 5 — one more example of just how in-demand the top Yank series are in Europe today.

Britain has traditionally been the pickiest among Euro program buyers, but of late the key terrestrial stations there have spent big when they decide to spend. The acquisition of “NCIS” surfaced late Friday.

As per usual with international TV deals, no figure was available for what the U.K. station is paying per episode for the hour, but prices have definitely escalated of late beyond the typical $100,000-$200,000 per episode that was the norm for years in that country.

The first 13 episodes of the show will premiere on Five on April 8 as the lead-in to “CSI: NY” at 9 p.m. and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” at 10 p.m. (“NCIS” had been airing on a little-watched, cable-satellite-delivered channel in the U.K. heretofore.)

” ‘NCIS’ is a top hit in the States and across Europe and is a great addition to our top-rating drama line-up,” Five’s head of programming, Dan Chambers, said.

“NCIS” (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) is set in the government agency that investigates crimes involving Navy and Marine personnel.

Mark Harmon stars as an alternately charming and curmudgeonly special agent named Leroy Jethro Gibbs, who overseas a handful of other sometimes eccentric investigators.

CBS Paramount International TV prexy Armando Nunez said: “Five has been a great partner for our series in the U.K. We look forward to ‘NCIS’ being a successful series for them, just as it has been for CBS.”

The deal comes at an interesting juncture for Nunez’s CBS-Par unit. In the wake of the Viacom-CBS split, Paramount (which is part of the Viacom camp) decided to take back charge of distributing overseas all of its own movies from Nunez’s unit, leaving him in charge of “only” Par’s TV series as well, naturally, as CBS product.

Ironically, this is a period in which TV series rather than feature films are the hot commodity abroad — and Par’s series are right now much better than its movies.

Meanwhile, back in the U.K., Channel Five also in recent months acquired several other high-profile American shows, including CBS Par’s “Everybody Hates Chris,” Fox’s “Prison Break” and Disney’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as continuing to schedule the entire Universal “Law & Order” franchise and the Alliance Atlantis-distribbed “CSI” franchise.