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Networks take shine to Murdoch projects for U.S.

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

U.K.-based production company Shine has completed a hat trick in the U.S. market, closing deals with a broadcast network, a syndicator and a cable network.
The 18-month-old company founded by Elisabeth Murdoch will develop a dating game show for Fox Television and a drama for HBO and has a first-look deal with syndicator Twentieth.
On the broadcast side, Fox Television ordered a pilot for an unscripted dating game show called “Spellbound,” which uses hypnosis in its attempts to bring couples together. “This is a dating show where the participants are willingly convinced to believe something other than the truth about the person they are meeting,” said Ms. Murdoch, who is chief executive of Shine and the daughter of News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
In the pilot episode, three gorgeous women will vie for the attention of a man who is their perfect match personalitywise, but who is not all that attractive. The women don’t realize this, though, because they’ve been hypnotized into thinking he’s a sex idol. At the end of the show, the man has to break the spell and let the women see his true self. Ms. Murdoch said it is “cringe-worthy television, but fantastic, so you can’t help but watch it.”
She said Shine screentested people for a test reel of the show in the United Kingdom and found that five out of 10 people were susceptible to hypnosis and three out of the five were deeply susceptible.
Ms. Murdoch said the pilot will be delivered to Fox by May.
For cable, Shine will develop “Sinchronicity,” a drama about the sex lives of a group of male friends, for HBO. The script for “Sinchronicity” was originally written to be a U.K. series, but it will now be rewritten for a U.S. audience, Ms. Murdoch said. The series will be executive produced by Julian Murphy, Shine’s creative director, drama, and Johnny Capps, Shine’s head of development, and written by Julian Jones.
“For our drama department, there’s probably not a more privileged position to be in than to be working with HBO, at the moment,” Ms. Murdoch said. “I think they’re wonderful, and we’re very honored to be working with them.”
HBO also acquired from Shine the documentary “The Day I Will Never Forget,” a 90-minute special directed by Kim Longinotto about Kenyan girls and their struggle against the native ritual of female circumcision.
Shine’s also jumping into the syndication arena. Twentieth Television signed a development deal with Shine: M, a joint venture between Shine Television and communications group WPP, whose worldwide companies include J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, Red Cell, MindShare, The Media Edge, Millward Brown, Research International and Kantar Media Research.
Under the deal, Shine will develop four pilots for Twentieth to distribute in the U.S. syndication market and give Twentieth a first look at all series for potential U.S. syndication. The pilots will be new shows and could fall into any genre, such as talk or game shows. “It absolutely depends on the demand in the syndicated marketplace, the caliber of the creative idea that we have, and it depends on the client,” Ms. Murdoch said. “It’s too early to say.”
Shine: M was formed about a year ago to create advertiser-supported programming formats reminiscent of the days when Procter & Gamble was deeply involved in producing soap operas. “In an age where advertising really can no longer just be satisfied with being parasitic on other people’s content, there has to be a middle ground where actually they can participate and create content,” she said.
Under Shine: M’s model, producers, marketing and advertisers work together on creating programming from the beginning. In most cases, advertisers will be investing money in the production and marketing of a project. While product placement isn’t a possibility in the United Kingdom because of government regulations, Ms. Murdoch said, “It’s something obviously that we would discuss with the brands that decide to join us in our partnership with Twentieth in the States.”
Ms. Murdoch said she will be heading to New York this week to present the new syndication deal to WPP clients and see which ones want to participate. Shine: M is still in various stages of development on projects like those with the U.K. broadcasters, but none of them are on air yet.
Ms. Murdoch said it was always her intention to expand into producing TV series for the U.S. market. “We’re really thrilled with the breadth of it,” she said.
Shine was founded by Elisabeth Murdoch and minority partner Waheed Alli in March 2001. Ms. Murdoch had been managing director of Sky Networks, a division of News Corp.’s British Sky Broadcasting satellite TV unit, before quitting in June 2000 to set up Shine.