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NBC U TV picks international prez

Former CBS exec Michael Edelstein heads expansion effort

NBC Universal Intl. has tapped Michael Edelstein to serve as its president of TV production.

Edelstein, a former CBS exec and one of the original exec producers on “Desperate Housewives,” will move to London and help oversee NBC U’s aggressive international TV expansion plans.

The exec is no stranger to the international TV community; last year he produced “Defying Gravity” for Fox TV Studios, which was an international co-production to broadcasters in Canada, Germany and the U.K. (ABC later acquired the show in the U.S.).

Edelstein will report to Peter Smith, the president of NBC Universal Intl.

“I’ve known Michael for some time, and think that he is extremely resourceful, as demonstrated on ‘Defying Gravity,’ ” Smith said. “And he’s got great taste in projects, which is what we need as a business. And both a terrific international Rolodex and great U.S. contacts. He’ll fit perfectly into our culture.”

Appointment fills the vacancy left when Brit producer (and Hat Trick co-founder) Denise O’Donoghue ankled NBC U Intl. in January, after less than six months on the job.

Edelstein follows in the footsteps of NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios programming prexy Angela Bromstad, who similarly moved to London in 2007 to launch NBC U’s production base there.

Bromstad spent nearly two years in the U.K., before returning to Hollywood for her current gig.

While Bromstad was there, NBC U Intl. acquired U.K. indie production company Carnival Film and Television (“Hotel Babylon”), and also brokered NBC U formats now around the globe (including “Law and Order,” with local editions in the U.K., France and Russia).

Smith said Edelstein will be charged with growing NBC U Intl.’s TV business geographically, servicing local broadcasters and local pay channels in various territories. He’ll also expand the company’s creative team and look to potentially acquire additional companies.

Besides Carnival, Edelstein will handle oversight of WTTV, NBC U’s joint venture with Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. Run by Shelley McCrory, WTTV’s output includes NBC’s upcoming anthology series “Love Bites.”

And he’ll oversee NBC U’s international formats licensing business. Besides “Law and Order,” the division has sold local editions of series such as “Top Chef” and “Minute to Win It.”

“What we have at the moment is a medium-sized U.K. business,” Smith said. “This is very much a start-up business, with plenty of blank canvas.”

Added Edelstein: “What Pete and I want to do is build a top-notch international studio.”

NBC U Intl. TV will target continental Europe first, and then look at moving into other “high-growth emerging markets.”

“Some territories, we’ll build a business from the ground up, while in other territories we’ll look to acquiring a pre-existing company,” Edelstein said. “I want to reach out to global broadcasters and see what’s in the Universal library and what can be helpful to them.”

NBC U Intl. TV already has a potential buyer in NBC U’s international channels. Right now, those channels rep only about 10% of the studio’s business; as those channels rebrand and look for more firstrun crime and sci-fi/fantasy content, Smith said those outlets will “be an important customer for Michael.”

“We hope to produce more for ourselves going forward,” Smith said.

Edelstein said he’ll also work closely with Bromstad (who introduced Edelstein to Smith) in potentially collaborating on more international co-prods with the U.S. Carnival helped produce NBC’s “The Philanthropist” last year, saving Universal Media Studios several millions of dollars in production costs.

Edelstein’s other credits include a stint as exec producer at Industry Entertainment. Besides “Desperate Housewives” and “Defying Gravity,” he also exec produced the TV movie “Haunting Sarah” and ABC’s “Threat Matrix.”

NBC U has previously announced its intentions to double non-U.S. revenues to $5 billion within the next two years, through local TV and film production, as well as by expanding pay TV channels and growth in key overseas markets beyond its focus on Blighty.

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