Global buyers screening few pilots

Studios pitching fall TV shows

Hundreds of global TV buyers in town for the L.A. Screenings ventured to the studios Monday to view pilots and presentations of shows announced at last week’s upfronts.

While the Canadians arrived early and have already bought shows, execs from other territories are creating a to-do list of possible pickups. The big complication this year, of course, is the relatively few completed pilots that studios have available for screenings. Some buyers are more wary than others about making commitments based on short presentations or pitch reels, execs said.

Canuck TV buyers needed to do their buying right away to prepare for their own upfront on June 4. Monday was Victoria Day in Canada, and it marked the first time in 11 years that buyers from up north were home to celebrate.

Marion Edwards, head of global sales for Fox’s Twentieth TV, called it a “spirited year” for Canadians, but said that the northern contingent was nervous about spending money on presentations rather than pilots. With the quick turnaround, however, they have little choice.

CBS Paramount Intl. TV topper Armando Nunez Jr. touted his lineup to buyers Monday morning at the Paramount Theater on the Par lot.

It screened full pilots of “The Cleaner,” arriving in summer on cabler A&E, and CBS sitcom “Worst Week.” On the lot were representatives from commercial webs M6 in France, Ten in Australia, Telecinco in Spain and pubcaster RAI in Italy, among others.

Following its shopping spree of NBC Universal shows in advance of the Screenings, Canadian net CanWest also picked up CBS Par’s CW drama “90210,” “Harper’s Island” and “Worst Week” before going home. Net also grabbed dramas “Dollhouse” and “Life on Mars” from Twentieth TV, as well as sitcom “Do Not Disturb.”

Rival CTV bought J.J. Abrams drama “Fringe,” Jerry Bruckheimer-produced “Eleventh Hour” and Simon Baker starrer “The Mentalist” from Warner Bros., as well as sitcom “Project Gary” from Disney.

There was no official word on prices but one studio said it was happy for the dollar amount being received and added, for the most part, that there was little or no drop-off of coin from last year. That’s good news for a TV business that suffered through a tumultuous development season halted because of the writers strike.

“We’re off to a good start,” Nunez told Daily Variety on how CBS Par’s shows are being received, particularly “90210.” “The world knows this is an important franchise. We have a lot of confidence in it,” he said.

Efe Onbilgin, managing director of Turner nets in Turkey, said he was impressed with sitcom “Worst Week,” which is turning into a buzz hit among buyers. The Universal Media Studios/CBS Par Network TV co-production is based on the BBC comedy “Worst Week of My Life,” about a young man dealing with his soon-to-be-in-laws.

“I couldn’t stop myself from laughing,” Onbilgin said. “I think I was disruptive to the rest of the presentation.”

Ghislain Barrois of Telecinco, which already has an output deal with CBS Par, called the studio’s new lineup “impressive, but continuity is the challenge. We need to see more.”

Telecinco doesn’t buy sitcoms, as it produces most of its comedies locally, but he was also impressed with “Worst Week.” Whether that translates to sales, however, remains to be seen.

Barrois said Telecinco can be selective at the Screenings because the net doesn’t have many holes to fill.

“We don’t have colossal needs,” he said. “Our schedule is pretty solid.”

Thomas Valentin of French net M6 did not let on to which shows he liked best, not wanting to give the competition — such as TF1 — a sense of what M6 might want to buy. But he did say that the net was willing to open its checkbook for the right programs.

“We have a big appetite for American shows,” he said.

Over at WB in Burbank, where it was dubbed Latin Day, more than 425 buyers — including nets Nine from Oz, the BBC and Five from the U.K., ProSieben from Germany and Televisa from Mexico — heard opening remarks from international TV prexy Jeffrey Schlesinger and other studio execs before settling in for a viewing.

Screened on the lot were “Fringe,” which has a comfy post-“House” slot on Fox in the fall; “The Mentalist” and “Eleventh Hour,” both on CBS; “Surviving the Filthy Rich” for the CW; and “Truth in Advertising,” with “Will & Grace” alum Eric McCormack for cabler TNT.

Said Bruce Rosenblum, president of WBTV Group, “We’re all in agreement that technology is great, but technology is not the star. Content is what it’s all about. It always has been and, honestly, always will be.”

Across the block at Disney, ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson gave a presentation to buyers. Today and Wednesday, global TV head Ben Pyne will address the foreign contingent on all things Mouse.

Disney is among the majors with a number of pilots still on deck to shoot this summer. So far the Mouse has landed sitcom “Project Gary” on CBS for the fall. It’s also shopping TNT drama “Raising the Bar,” a legal ensembler from producer Steven Bochco, to buyers this week.

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