ABC Buys RDF Doc About J.K. Rowling

Apr 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

With 20 pickups in its two-year history, production house RDF USA’s next project will bring “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling to U.S. audiences in a documentary on ABC.
The program will track the reclusive author for the year she spent finishing the final volume of her mega-hit series of books on the boy wizard. It will follow her back to her childhood home and to the old apartment where she completed the first “Harry Potter” book.
The one-hour special features her husband and sister talking about their life with Ms. Rowling. It ends with her starting work on a new book and contemplating life after Harry, including her thoughts on more editions for the series.
“Everybody was interested in this because it’s such an incredible program on a huge subject,” said Chris Coelen, CEO of RDF USA. “She is such a huge figure in entertainment, and in the same way we gave ABC unprecedented access to the Queen last year, we are now set to give an unparalleled look into the life of J.K. Rowling.”
The series is slated to air later in the year.
RDF USA and ABC declined to provide financial details on the deal.
The Rowling documentary bolsters a two-year run for the producer and distributor during which RDF USA went from a one-person shop, with the hiring of Mr. Coelen from UTA, to a full operation that produces, develops and manages products from around the world.
That growth has been built on shows including Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!” and Lifetime’s “How to Look Good Naked.” It has coincided with the growth of the U.S. market for shows conceived overseas. RDF USA’s parent, U.K.-based RDF Media Group, and its rights-management company, Pangea, set up shop in the U.S. to shepherd more of those formats into the North American market.
RDF USA also is developing shows locally for international distribution, competing with companies including Granada America, Fremantle North America and Endemol USA. Mr. Coelen already has sold a local format of “Dance Fever” to broadcasters around the world.
All of those companies have entrenched themselves by formatting international shows for the U.S. market.
RDF USA’s upcoming series include a pilot for CBS entitled “Ny-Lon,” based on a U.K. format, and ABC’s summer series “Dance Machine.” The company is mulling a celebrity version of ABC’s “Wife Swap,” Mr. Coelen said.
“I was very ambitious and wanted to set the bar really high,” said Mr. Coelen. “To get 20 series commitments in the past two years from a standing start, as well as get the company into scripted series for the first time, really proves what this company is capable of.”

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