Sometimes IP is a bonus when selling a show, and sometimes it’s more crucial.
Two key properties coming to Mipcom from ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group this year are new iterations of beloved stories: Josh Boone and Benjamin Cavell’s nine-part adaptation of Stephen King’s 1978 post-apocalyptic tome “The Stand,” and Anna Fricke’s “reimagining” of the 1990s modern-classic law-enforcement drama “Walker, Texas Ranger,” now simply titled “Walker.” While “The Stand” has already delivered first looks such as photos and trailers and will be premiering its first episode at the market, “Walker” is only preparing to go into production now, having been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“While we can’t show anything, it’s been cast in a really positive, good way with [Jared] Padalecki and some other folks who have CW history,” says Dan Cohen, president, ViacomCBS Global Distribution Group, of “Walker.” “The show is being produced in the U.S. for the CW. We have clients that have licensed other series from us that are on the CW. They can take some comfort that they know more or less what they’re getting into.”
Both of these properties have had changes made to them for the new versions. “Walker” is still “a love song to Texas,” Fricke says, but the show now centers on a titular character who is a widower who moves back to his family’s ranch, making the series more of a multi-generational “family soap” than the original. This new version of “The Stand” tells its story about the survivors of a deadly plague who fall on opposite sides of good and evil in a non-linear way, and with a brand new coda from King himself in the finale episode.
“I do think these shows stand on their own whether you know the original or not,” Cohen says. But he admits that the source material being so well-known certainly helps with buyers’ comfort levels, too. “Our buyers are super-sophisticated. They tend to know the material.”
“Walker, Texas Ranger” is still on in more than 20 territories, Cohen continues, while “The Stand” was previously adapted into a four-part limited series in the 1990s that many of his buyers likely picked up then. “I think the overarching reason for King’s enduring worldwide popularity is that his stories are about people and about their private lives and fears and desires,” says Cavell.
Both shows also boast ensemble casts of global stars: “The Stand” features Alexander Skarsgård, Whoopi Goldberg, James Marsden and Owen Teague, to name a few, while “Walker” is centered on “Supernatural” co-lead Padalecki and includes Mitch Pileggi, Keegan Allen and Lindsey Morgan.
All of these elements have added up to ViacomCBS making some early licensing deals, but Cohen says there are still plenty more territories avail-able for both properties.
“If we get what we really think is the right partner and the right economics, we’ll close the deal early, but in general, I prefer to wait, go to market, let people see whatever you have to show and get some buzz going,” he says. “That’s why we have the markets.”
This year the biggest challenge may just be the virtual nature to Mipcom. “Everybody’s gotten so much more comfortable with screening product at home [and] Zoom calls,” Cohen says. “I don’t know what that will do for buzz [but] we’re going to have to figure it out because we haven’t done this and it’s probably going to be the way we sell for a while.”