As worldwide TV buyers parade from one studio to another this week as part of the shopping spree known as the L.A. Screenings, the hunt for the next great global hit remains a mystery.
Last weekend HBO screened the Aaron Sorkin-penned drama “The Newsroom,” which received high praise. Michael Dick, head of acquisitions for Fox Intl. Channels in Asia, called the Jeff Daniels starrer “absolutely fantastic. It’s an amazing bit of television.”
However, because the show focuses on American politics, there is the possibility its themes might not travel beyond U.S. shores — a scenario that international buyers must always keep in mind before taking out their checkbook.
“It will be seen as a masterpiece, but I’m not sure it will earn strong ratings,” Fox said.
Other cable fare that garnered strong reviews was Lionsgate-produced comedy “Anger Management,” which premieres June 28 on FX. Both Fox and Ruediger Boess of ProSieben in Germany gave it a thumbs up, while Boess said he was “surprised” at how funny the Charlie Sheen sitcom was.
There was strong praise across the board for the lineup from CBS Intl. Studios, highlighted by procedural “Elementary” — a Sherlock Holmes-like whodunit with Jonny Lee Miller — and “Vegas,” starring Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid.
“One has to acknowledge Les Moonves because, year after year, CBS delivers,” said John Ranelagh, head of acquisitions for TV2 Norway. “They demonstrate admirable confidence in sticking with their line of shows.”
Armando Nunez, CBS’ international TV topper, agreed that CBS’ Stateside stability is a big plus when trying to peddle shows overseas.
“It’s a good thing when you have returning shows and not a lot of new shows every season,” he said. “What clients want are shows that succeed in the U.S. because that means there’s a higher probability they will succeed in their own markets.”
No matter the quality of the series or how much admiration it receives, buyers can become increasingly frustrated if they purchase a promising series only to see it canceled early in its U.S. run.
Although it was offered before this year’s Screenings, TNT’s upcoming “Dallas” revamp — sold by Warner Bros. — was also highly touted by Ranelagh.
“Using the leads from the old series and combining them with a new generation of actors has worked brilliantly,” he said. “It has a real chance of being a big hit.”
Other shows that had buyers intrigued included Disney’s alien comedy “Neighbors” and NBCUniversal laffer “The Mindy Project,” 20th drama “Gotham” (though it wasn’t picked up by ABC and may not be available) and Warner Bros.’ “The Following.”While there was some discussion on whether prices for shows will fall in line with last year or, as some indicated, may drop slightly, Nunez noted that scheduling American shows is an important fundamental of any foreign programming portfolio.
“In most cases, acquisition of U.S. content is much more cost effective than local content,” he said.