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German Broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 Casts Global Net for Scripted Fare

Before broadcasting giants even consider pitches, they tend to create hurdles for creative types to clear. But Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 is taking the opposite approach, issuing an open invitation to writers and producers from around the world to submit proposals for series and miniseries for development.

It’s a first for the broadcaster, and the brainchild of Koby Gal-Raday, the senior VP of international co-production and documentaries, who was hired in 2014 to boost the company’s English-language and foreign productions. (The shingle he co-founded, July August Prods., was acquired in 2012 by ProSiebenSat.1’s Red Arrow production arm.) While the strategy is aimed at bringing new voices and fresh talent to the network, it also provides equal opportunity to international filmmakers, production companies and showrunners-in-the-making.

Gal-Raday, a former exec at Israel’s Reshet Broadcasting, says the idea for the open call stems from his successful experience working with global collaborators on theatrical co-productions. He calls it the first step in a larger vision for such works at ProSiebenSat.1’s main channels, Sat.1 and ProSieben. “We see international co-productions as one of the main pillars of our content strategy for the years to come,” he notes.

The broadcaster has laid out instructions on its website as to how proposals should be structured. The network will accept submissions from June 1 to Aug. 3, and then evaluate proposals before selecting up to 15 projects for development.

The TV group already boasts a strong track record on global collaborations, including the adaptations of Ken Follett’s “The Pillars of the Earth” and “World Without End,” as well as U.K. sci-fi-fantasy skein “Primeval” and European crime drama “Crossing Lines.”

Gal-Raday calls that a good foundation, but adds that the network’s mission is to bring many more projects, and particularly more series, into primetime.

While ProSiebenSat.1’s fiction unit handles the broadcaster’s purely domestic fare, Gal-Raday’s international co-production arm is looking for content that goes beyond the German market while still appealing to local viewers. The exec emphasizes the importance of providing support at the development stage, to maximize the network’s input into a show.

“It’s (about) much more than money,” Gal-Raday says. “It’s about the creative dialogue, how to shape it together and bring our know-how into the process.”

Projects can be shot in any language. “You can have an episodic series set in the U.S. or the U.K., and it can still be relevant for (German viewers),” he notes.

Moreover, Gal-Raday says, budgets for international co-productions will be higher than for local shows, although he would not offer hard numbers, since budgets would depend on a project’s scale and the financial input of possible co-producers. “We’re going to find the right partners,” he says, both creatively and financially. “We don’t have the limitations you might have when you’re dealing with commissions (from only German producers).”

While popular genres like crime and medical procedurals, as well as romantic comedies, remain ProSiebenSat.1’s “bread and butter,” says Gal-Raday, the broadcaster is open to all kinds of projects, including those with adventure, fantasy or historical themes, as long as they have commercial and international potential. One-offs, for instance, aren’t likely to sell.

“Episodic will still be a cornerstone of our programming,” Gal-Raday says, “but you can have a fresh twist, a fresh approach in order to have compelling, entertaining and broad stories with cinematic appeal.”

As for minis, ProSiebenSat.1 is looking for event series, but with storylines that are closer to home. “(Miniseries) should have a very clear German angle to the story, relating to storyline or characters,” Gal-Raday notes. “It can be a universal theme, but it has to be (locally) relevant, because we want to create a water-cooler discussion the day after.”

With quality TV increasingly grabbing the spotlight from film — and movie talent eagerly taking on smallscreen duties — it is perhaps ironic that ProSeibenSat.1’s overall approach is one that borrows so freely from the film world’s co-production market model. Still it may be the best way the broadcaster can tune into the next big global hit.

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