‘Access’ Spinoff a Hybrid for U.K. Market

Aug 25, 2003  •  Post A Comment

For the first time, “Access Hollywood” is going international.
A weekly version of the NBC-owned entertainment magazine strip is scheduled to launch in November most likely in prime time in the United Kingdom on LivingTV, a network owned by Britain’s Flextech.
The unique deal, a hybrid between a format deal and producing a finished show, has been in the works for more than a year. NBC Enterprises is expected to announce it this week.
This is the first time “Access,” now entering its eighth season, has made a deal for a version outside the United States. But if plans go as expected, it will not be the last.
“It’s the beginning of world dominance,” said Rob Silverstein, the “Access” executive producer who played host and tour guide last week to two British producers who will be at the helm of the new version. The show will be a co-production of Britain’s Via Digital Networks and America’s NBC Enterprises, which distributes Peacock-branded programming throughout the world. The British producers are David Hall and David Hedges, both from Via Digital Networks.
“`Access Hollywood’ is such an incredible brand that we said this is something we need to bring to the international marketplace, but in a way so it can be embraced by local countries,” said Leslie Jones, director of sales for NBC Enterprises.
Ms. Jones, said the Brits will be responsible for selling commercial time in the spinoff.
The commitment is for 40 one-hour episodes to be fronted by two British presenters and a staff that will be housed in the NBC News bureau in London.
The content will be a mix dominated by material produced by Mr. Silverstein’s staff in the States and segments designed to appeal to British audiences, featuring subjects such as pop star Robbie Williams, Euro-supercouple Victoria and David Beckham and tenor Luciano Pavarotti. The mix is needed because while British viewers see a lot of American TV, they know more about shows that have received international exposure, such as “Friends,” but may not know much about “Everybody Loves Raymond The British “Access” will reciprocate by providing the U.S. program with coverage of movie premieres, concerts or TV stories of particular interest to American audiences.
“I would love for [the spinoff] to be very British in presentation,” Mr. Silverstein said. He will have a vote on the casting of the British counterparts to “Access” anchors Pat O’Brien and Nancy O’Dell and relishes the prospect of intercontinental banter in which Hollywood attitude meets Brit wit.
While Ms. Jones stressed that no time slot is “etched in cement,” the femme-focused LivingTVl seems primed to position “Access Hollywood” early on Thursday nights, which, like Thursdays in the States, do a big business in commercials focused on movies and other weekend entertainment options.
“Access Hollywood” averaged a 2.7 household rating in the 2002-03 season. Last season it modestly increased in 18- to 49-year-old viewers (up 5 percent season to season) and 25- to 54-year-old viewers (up 4 percent).