With the heat of last week’s upfront presentations receding, international buyers are kicking the tires on the pilots themselves at the L.A. Screenings. And while the consensus is that a handful of shows do have breakout potential, buyers are looking for series that will last not six weeks but six seasons.
Canadian buyers made the rounds last week and those from Latin American markets took their turn over the weekend, gathering to watch the new shows on movie screens for maximum effect. Now everyone else from around the globe is in town checking out the major studios’ TV wares.
Herbert Kloiber, owner of German network and media conglom TMG, is focused on shows that have staying power. He can’t afford to choose a show that Teutonic viewers will quickly dismiss if it’s struggling in the States.
“We can’t have a show on our air that lasts only seven episodes,” Kloiber said. With that in mind, he was interested in NBC’s smallscreen adaptation of John Grisham novel “The Firm,” to which the Peacock has already committed 22 episodes.
John Ranelagh, director of acquisitions for TV2 Norway, has high expectations for product from CBS Studios Intl. because the track record of its shows has been strong. Over the past few years, many of the studio’s shows — including “The Good Wife,” “Hawaii Five-0,” “Blue Bloods” and “The Borgias” — have returned after their frosh seasons.
“They won’t cancel a show,” Ranelagh said of CBS, where most of the CBS Intl. product is televised. “That’s something completely different from the other networks.”
Added CBS Intl. topper Armando Nunez: “Buyers know that if it’s a CBS show, it has a high possibility of success.”
HBO has been screening the new David Milch-Michael Mann series “Luck,” about life on the racetrack. Both Ranelagh and Beverley McGarvey, network head of programming for Ten in Australia, said the ensemble — including Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte and Dennis Farina — was stellar but the show will definitely play better to an audience familiar with the intricacies of horse racing, not a broad viewership.
That kind of focus is typical for HBO or Showtime, for which viewers pay monthly fees; their skeins don’t have to appeal to a wide swath of viewers.
Both Ranelagh and McGarvey were also keen on Showtime’s upcoming series “Homeland,” starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin.
Among the broadcast comedies, several buyers were high on Twentieth’s “New Girl,” starring Zooey Deschanel as a woman who moves in to an apartment with three guys. “It feels like a warm romantic comedy,” said McGarvey, whose network has output deals with CBS Intl. and Twentieth. “It has heart.”
On the drama side, Patrick Wilson starrer “A Gifted Man” is getting thumbs up from many buyers, including a pair from Chile. They weren’t as impressed, however, by the buzz-heavy “Terra Nova,” in which a family goes back to prehistoric time to save the Earth. The NBC pilots also didn’t make much of a lasting impression.
Warner Bros. Television Group prexy Bruce Rosenblum told international TV execs on Monday that while viewers have an increasingly larger number of ways to access their favorite shows, studios and networks around the world still get the most mileage from traditional viewing habits.
“We have an obligation to help your businesses stay healthy in the face of new and different competition,” he said Monday morning to a group of buyers gathered at the Steven J. Ross Theater. “It is in both of our interests to keep traditional linear television relevant and vibrant.”
Nunez and other international TV studio toppers said that with the economy on the rebound, there will likely be intense competition in several territories for the top shows on offer.
In France, TF1 and M6 are relying more on American programming, and there are often intense bidding wars among the U.K. nets.
Comedies, said Warner Bros.’ Jeffrey Schlesinger, are finding homes because more networks are scheduling only laffers. “Channels are becoming genre specific,” he said. “They’re going to have a smaller audience by definition, but it’s a loyal audience.”
In the drama arena, Schlesinger said he’s betting on J.J. Abrams’ “Alcatraz” and “Person of Interest,” starring “Lost” vet Michael Emerson.
Showrunners with a proven track record are an important factor to buyers. Norway’s Ranelagh, for one, says pedigree is a key factor among various criteria — which also include cast, timeslot, studio — when deciding which shows to pursue.”It’s the first thing I want to know,” said Ranelagh of the creative force behind a series. “If it’s David E. Kelley, I want to know if he can still deliver.”
The studios, meanwhile, continue to trumpet their star power to influence buyers.
At a Sunday-night shindig, Disney brought out the entire casts of its new shows alongside execs Anne Sweeney and Rich Ross.