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Fox Intl. Channels opens wallet for originals

News Corp. unit developing projects designed for global launches

Fox Intl. Channels is open for business in Hollywood.

News Corp.’s international cable unit has quietly been ramping up series development activity out of L.A., spearheaded by Sharon Tal Yguado, senior veep of scripted programming. FIC is using its worldwide heft to commission original series that can be given the global rollout treatment across the unit’s 350-plus channels in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. FIC’s goal is to develop original series with partners that sell to U.S. networks (inside and outside the News Corp. family) and then can be heavily promoted as event programming for FIC outlets.

Among the projects in FIC’s pipeline is fantasy drama “Pulp,” now being co-developed with Fox Television Studios, writer Michael Davis (“Shoot ‘Em Up”) and producer Don Murphy. Project, based on tome “The Book With No Name,” revolves around an oddball group of characters seeking a mysterious blue stone. Tal Yguado calls it “‘The X-Files’ meets Tarantino.”

“Future Sociopaths” is a script FIC picked up on a spec from Daniel Arkin (“Suits”) about a professor and serial killer profiler grappling with his domestic obligations as a husband and father. FIC is about to shop the project to prospective U.S. production partners.

FIC’s push into original series has been fueled by its success in the past two years with the rollouts across the channel group for AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” FX’s “American Horror Story” and, most recently, Fox’s “Touch.”

“It showed us what a powerful platform we are in terms of our channel reach and our marketing and the impact we can have in breaking a hit show,” Tal Yguado said.

Expanding into wholly original material was the next logical step for FIC, which spent the past decade bulking up under the direction of David Haslingden, prexy-COO of Fox Networks Group, and FIC prexy-CEO Hernan Lopez.

Tal Yguado, a seven-year FIC vet, heads a team of three development execs based in L.A. They’re in the midst of clearing rights to more books and graphic novels, and they’re looking to ink a few first-look deals with writers and producers who can deliver the kind of tentpole fare that gets attention around the world. Tal Yguado and her team are making the rounds of the major percenteries in the next few weeks to explain the strategy and troll for new prospects.

“We started about two years ago with baby steps and letting people know that we had the budget to be a co-producer,” Tal Yguado said. “Now we’re moving more aggressively, and we want people to bring us their projects. Now we’re at the stage where we need to secure our own IP.”

FIC’s success with “Walking Dead” was eye opening for the division’s programmers. Tal Yguado had been concentrating on finding a traditional procedural franchise given the enduring appeal of “CSI,” “House” and “Law and Order” series overseas. “Walking Dead” showed FIC execs the importance of having a strong marketable hook and a concept immediately distinguishable from the competition.

“That showed us we wanted to be in partnership with or develop shows that are loud, sassy tentpoles but have very grounded, strong characters at the center,” she said.

FIC was in on “Walking Dead” from the show’s inception, inking a co-financing pact with AMC in exchange for international distribution rights. The zombie apocalypse drama has been such a hit overseas that FIC has been able to launch two channels based on audience demand for the show: FX Australia and Fox Crime in Norway.

Another project FIC has helped shepherd from the start is Gale Anne Hurd’s pirate drama “Port Royale,” in development at FX.

Although FIC has the means to commission series strictly for its outlets, it’s a big selling point for the channels to promote a show as bowing simultaneously with its U.S. run. That means FIC is not looking to the U.S. so much for help in financing a show but for the marketing value — a strategy that is becoming more prevalent as internationally focused production-distribution companies like Entertainment One, Gaumont and Cineflix make inroads in the U.S.

“Our channels carry the Fox brand, and that brand stands for the best U.S. content,” Tal Yguado said. “We really need to give our shows the feel of a global release. It’s not as powerful if you don’t have a U.S. partner.”

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