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British Influence Heads for Syndie

Mar 12, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The British invasion that stormed network prime-time programming in recent years is set to touch down on first-run syndication soil.

Lion USA Productions has already snagged at least one offer from a major distributor to adapt British import “Let Me Entertain You” as a national syndicated series for a fall 2008 launch. Should development of the series move forward, it will mark the latest adaptation of a successful overseas program for syndication in the U.S.

“There is such a demand to create inexpensive hits, not only for prime time but also in daytime, that it’s only natural to turn to formats that studios know were already successful elsewhere,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television. “Studios don’t get a chance to do a lot of R&D anymore, so it’s smart to look across the pond and see what’s working in England.”

That sentiment echoes the recent mantra by prime-time development executives that helped launch top-rated series such as “American Idol,” which is spun from the United Kingdom’s hit “Pop Stars,” and “The Office,” based on the British series of the same name.

This fall, Twentieth Television and FremantleMedia North America will unveil the half-hour game show “Temptation” on stations. The series is based on the global format phenomenon “Sale of the Century,” which won time periods in Great Britain and Australia in recent years.

“One of the reasons we brought ‘Temptation’ back is because it did so well overseas,” said Eugene Young, chief creative officer, FremantleMedia North America.

“In Australia, where ‘Temptation’ was a strip, it earns a 34 share. That allowed us to bring the series back to the United States and redevelop it for this market.”

Mr. Young noted “Temptation” has been cleared in much of the U.S., with distributor Twentieth Television being selective in which stations the series will air.

He noted the interactivity and shopping theme of the strip will boost its appeal with women and recent meetings with general managers across the country had allowed him to fine-tune the show for market needs.

NBC Universal is expected to launch a daytime strip of “Deal or No Deal,” which was another international sensation before becoming a prime-time hit in the U.S.

Other series from companies such as Granada America have been mentioned as potential vehicles for daytime audiences.

Although converting foreign series is now a standard practice within the television industry, it is by no means new. Classic U.S. series such as “All in the Family” and “Three’s Company” also were adapted from overseas hits.

“Importing series may be growing in popularity now, but they also worked well in the distant past,” said Mr. Carroll. “Distributors in syndication have figured out once again that these types of shows are a cost-effective way of developing product.”

“Let Me Entertain You” is a daytime variety/game show in which contestants perform in front of a studio audience for a cash prize. At any point during their act, a member of the audience can press a button to register displeasure with the routine’ when half of the audience has pressed their buttons, the act is stopped. The contestants receive increasingly better prizes as they pass the one-, two- and three-minute marks.

Syndicators Buena Vista and Twentieth are said to be interested in the project, according to sources. Representatives of Lion Television, Buena Vista and Twentieth would not comment on any potential deals for the show.

The series originally aired on BBC 2 last August, hosted by British comedian Brian Conley. The series was such a hit that taping of season two is set to begin in April in London for airing this summer. Adam Wood of Lion Television is credited as creator of the program.

Lion Television was founded in 1997 by Jeremy Mills, Nick Catliff and Richard Bradley. Since then Lion has become one of the most successful independent production companies in the United Kingdom. The producer currently maintains format deals with broadcasters across Europe as well as in Australia, Canada and the United States. Recent productions to air in America include “S.W.A.T. USA,” “History Detectives,” “It Takes a Thief” and “Cash Cab.”