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Mark Burnett teams with Asian co.

Singapore's Genting signs on for joint venture

Mark Burnett is betting big on Asia, pacting with casino and resorts giant Genting Intl. to launch a $20 million joint production venture.

Mark Burnett Prods. Asia will produce original content for Asian broadcasters and license those formats in markets around the world, including the U.S. The TV venture, the first for Genting, marks the latest overseas expansion for Burnett, who last year launched an outpost in France.

New company will be based at Resorts World at Sentosa, a $5 billion mega-resort being built by Genting in Singapore and set to open in 2010. Complex will house a Singapore outpost of the Universal Studios theme park, a marine park and film production studios — all of which will be utilized by Mark Burnett Prods. Asia.

Partnership has been constructed as a 10-year agreement, with both parties holding equal equity in the venture and agreeing to invest up to $20 million in the project over its life. It covers all parts of Asia save for Japan and the Middle East.

“We’ve been doing business in and around Asia since our company was founded, and we’ve been looking at ways to do more in this massive market,” Burnett said. “Shortly after our first meeting with Genting, we felt like we had found the perfect company to partner with, not only to bring our existing library to the territory, but also to develop and produce original content that will be of interest to television viewers throughout Asia.”

C. Scot Cru, who heads international production for Burnett, is spearheading the company and will work with his Genting counterparts to find a CEO. He said it took less than three weeks to hammer out the specifics of the pact.

“It’s a great marriage of our skillsets and theirs,” Cru told Daily Variety. “We think it’s going to rock the production community in Asia.”

Cru said Genting gives MBPA “extensive contacts and knowledge of how to do business in Asia,” a vital asset given Burnett’s desire to do more than just sell pre-existing shows to countries.

“We’re not just looking to license things; we want to produce them as well,” he said. “We need to have partners in order to understand the market.”

With France and Asia spoken for, Cru said Mark Burnett Prods. will continue looking for international expansion opportunities.

“We definitely have the U.K. on our radar,” he said. “We think strategic partnerships work well.”

That said, “We’re not going to be running around the world like Johnny Appleseed,” Cru added. “We’re going to try to be very strategic.”

Burnett is no stranger to Asia. Current edition of “Survivor” lensed in China, making it the first American TV production to be completely produced in that country.

“We had such a positive experience with ‘Survivor: China’ that it made us look at Asia more closely,” Cru said.

Lim Kok Thay, exec chairman of Genting Intl., said the teaming with Burnett will be a key part of the company’s new Singapore mega-resort. Expectation is that visitors will be able to participate in gameshows produced by Mark Burnett Prods. Asia or watch shows as they’re produced.

“This partnership boosts Resorts World Sentosa’s already rich entertainment offerings and will draw many more visitors to the resort when it opens,” he said.

Deal was sparked in part by the Singapore Economic Development Board, which first put Burnett’s camp in touch with Genting back in June.

Genting operates casinos and resorts in Blighty, Oz and Malaysia. Last year, it made a successful bid to enter Singapore’s new casino market; Resorts World will be the first casino under that license.