Stay tuned for “Access Bollywood.”
You heard right: This week possibly will see the announcement of an adaptation of entertainment newsmagazine “Access Hollywood” for the India market at the annual MIP international television programming bazaar, which opens today in Cannes.
Format sales of have become the way of the future in the global programming marketplace, which has been increasingly affected by the presence of the Los Angeles Screenings every May, when new American shows for the upcoming season are made available to international buyers. As straight sales of American series to worldwide channels have dipped, the market has slowly but surely seen an increase of formatting deals, not only from the likes of Granada, FremantleMedia and the U.S. studios, but from smaller companies as well.
For example, two weeks ago, Warner Bros. International Television reaffirmed its commitment to formatting series such as “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace” and announced it was moving its headquarters to Paris.
And last week, the Russian format version of NBC Universal’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” continued to tear up the ratings charts in that country.
Formatting and localization, in which a show’s premise and theme is adapted to different territories with local production and on-air talent, now are priorities for those companies.
“One priority for us at NBC Universal is international growth through formatting and local production,” said Leslie Jones, VP of international sales and format production, NBC Universal International Television Distribution. “Over the next few years you will see that as a key goal, and this year’s MIP should be an interesting one for us in achieving that. For the first time, we can now sell actual episodes of formats we’ve been doing internationally, such as the Russian version of ‘Law & Order’ as well as the French version, which will debut on May 3.”
Ms. Jones said her company will be involved in heavy discussions at MIP about continuing to extend the franchise to other markets as well. The company also is looking to format unscripted series such as “Top Chef” and “Top Design” and to market its global versions of “Access Hollywood.”
Earlier this year, the company announced it had licensed a Mandarin-language version of “Access Hollywood” in the People’s Republic of China that blended local celebrity news with features from its American counterpart. In late 2006, Ireland’s Channel 6 also launched a local version of “Access Hollywood,” which is already enjoying solid ratings.
Next up could be India, with its multibillion-dollar Bollywood entertainment industry. Ms. Jones noted the company had been in discussions to launch “Access Bollywood” in the country in the near future.
“‘Access Hollywood’ is a format we’ve had success with in territories, and it already has a good track record and delivery system,” she said. “In this case, the series is a unique hybrid format of local content and some of the U.S. material that leaves a nice combination of local and international celebrity news.”
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. International Television is teaming up with international producers and broadcasters to create localized versions of the global hit drama series “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case,” both from Jerry Bruckheimer Television, in territories around the world.
It’s the first time WBITV has offered international format rights to series currently being produced by the studio for broadcast in the U.S. Previously announced format deals for such series as “Full House” pertained to content from the Warner Bros. Entertainment library.
“Our meetings are still in the early stages for those two shows,” said Warner Bros. International Television President Jeffrey R. Schlesinger. “We are now trying to identify one or two significant countries to launch them in. We are not interested to find a bunch of little deals in little countries at this time. Instead, we want to go through the process once or twice before we expand it.”
Granada, on the other hand, has built much of the company’s business around formatting with platforms such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Nanny 911.” At MIP, the company is expected to be both a buyer and a seller of format concepts.
“As we move on to MIP, we’ll be looking to show some original formats, sell some existing formats and get to know what the evolution of this market will be,” said David Gyngell, CEO of Granada America. “There is a constant goal to get tape to exploit so we can bring it back to America. There are more and more opportunities out there and so many great ideas, it would be arrogant of us not to touch base and communicate with the different broadcasters and producers.”
Smaller companies are capitalizing on the business as well. Michael Yudin, president of My Entertainment, which is owned by independent media agency Carat, will be pushing localization efforts for series such as Spike TV’s “Pros vs. Joes” after obtaining international rights to the series earlier this year.
“We plan on using the clout of Carat throughout the world in creating content based on the ‘Pros vs. Joes’ format,” Mr. Yudin said. “Whether it’s a sneaker company, soft drink, automotive or any other male 18- to 34-year-old product, we have an opportunity to utilize brand integration around the world for this series, and we’ll be meeting with both broadcasters and production companies about moving forward.”
Initially broadcasters will be allowed to go through the 20 shows from the first season of “Pros vs. Joes” and cherry-pick episodes they think will work in their countries, whether hockey, soccer or basketball. Then deals would be made for creating originals for sports popular in that particular territory; for example, Spain could create episodes featuring stars from jai alai, cricket, soccer and basketball.
Attending MIP for the first time will be Starz Media, headed by president of distribution and marketing Neil Braun, who brings a varied slate to the market that includes documentaries, kids’ fare such as “Wow! Wow! Wubzy!” and dramas such as “Masters of Horror” and “Painkiller Jane.” However, a main goal of the company is to establish international co-productions on local fare.
“We want international broadcasters who are interested in participating early on in the development process with us,” Mr. Braun said. “We want them to think of Starz as one of the first stops in looking for a partner to fund their projects.
“The world has gotten very small and it’s more competitive than ever, so you’ve got to know early on that you have partners in major territories who are excited about what you are doing. That is why MIP is so important.”