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From ‘CSI’ to ‘Star Trek: Discovery’: Armando Nuñez’s Record of Exporting Americana

Over his long career in international sales, Armando Nuñez Jr. has handled just about every kind of TV program, from game-changing primetime dramas, to daytime soaps, to trashy talk shows.

Some were big hits right out of the box, some were sleepers, and one show was so bad that a top foreign buyer left the screening room after 10 minutes to yell at the studio executives responsible for the pilot. Here Nuñez recalls some of his most memorable experiences in exporting television — and slices of American culture — around the world.

Moonlighting
Original network: ABC
Airdates: 1985-1989
Nuñez was not long out of Fordham University when he got a job working for ABC Video Enterprises, the network’s distribution arm. He was part of the team that sold the network’s smash romantic dramedy “Moonlighting,” which starred Cybill Shepherd and made a star of Bruce Willis. “It was a unique show,” Nuñez says. The timing was perfect, because the show hit the marketplace just as European and Latin American countries began to open their markets to privately owned broadcasters alongside state-run outlets. “It was just the beginning of that transition, and ‘Moonlighting’ came at the right inflection point,” he says.

Pacific Drive
Original network: Australia’s Nine Network
Airdates: 1996-2000
Nuñez worked for Ronald Perelman’s New World Entertainment in the mid-1990s, when the company was aggressive in selling soap operas “Santa Barbara” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” around the world. It also forged international production pacts even for shows that didn’t air in the U.S. “Pacific Drive,” co-produced with Australia’s Village Roadshow, was a saucy soup in the vein of Fox’s “Melrose Place.” “It was a little ahead of its time,” Nuñez recalls. The series was savaged by critics, but Nuñez has fond memories of spending time on the Gold Coast where the show was shot. “It was a great period of time in the TV business and a great time to be at New World,” Nuñez says.

Timecop
Original network: ABC
Airdates: 1997-1998
Nuñez moved to Universal Television just in time to help sell the studio’s adaptation of the 1994 time-travel action movie that had starred Jean-Claude Van Damme. Universal’s executive team knew the show — set in the far-off future of 2007 — was never going to be Emmy bait. But they were all surprised when the head of one of Germany’s largest broadcasters charged out of the screening room after a few minutes to give a piece of his mind to the executives responsible for the show. “Let’s just say it didn’t go well,” Nuñez says. “They can’t all be ‘CSI’ and ‘NCIS.’”

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
Original network: CBS
Airdates: 2000-2015
CBS did not acquire international rights to the “CSI” franchise until 2008, after its former production partner, Alliance Atlantis, had been through a complicated sale. Then and now, “CSI” is a huge calling card for the studio. Topliner William Petersen was treated like “a rock star” when he strolled the Croisette during a visit to Mipcom to promote the show, Nuñez recalls. “He was surprised at the reaction, but we weren’t,” Nuñez says. “Our talent is often somewhat surprised by the recognition factor and popularity of their shows when they travel internationally.”

The Jerry Springer Show
Original network: U.S. syndication
Airdates: 1991-2018
During his time at Universal, Nuñez was tasked with trying to find international homes for the studio’s slate of daytime syndicated talk shows, including “Sally Jessy Raphael,” “Maury Povich” and “The Jerry Springer Show.” Nuñez figured “Jerry Springer” would be the toughest sell as the raunchy series was known for chair-throwing and hair-pulling (and worse) among its guests. But to Nuñez’s surprise, Springer’s circus was a big hit in the U.K. for a time on the Flextech cabler. Nuñez adds that Springer was his own best sales rep. “He was always great in dealing with our [buyer] clients,” he says.

Star Trek: Discovery
Original network: CBS All Access
Airdates: 2017 to present
As a longtime fan of the “Star Trek” milieu, Nuñez was energized when CBS decided the time was right to launch a new iteration, to help drive subscribers to CBS All Access. Making it the centerpiece of the streamer made it more imperative that “Discovery” generate significant international revenue. But instead of mounting a worldwide sales blitz, Nuñez realized Netflix was eager to scoop up the show in most markets outside the U.S. The offer was big enough to cover most of the first season’s production costs. “This was another transaction I’m very proud of,” Nuñez says. “Strategically ‘Star Trek’ is hugely important for CBS. We have very ambitious plans for the franchise.”

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