After the networks tout their new shows to advertisers during upfront week in pursuit of ad dollars, it’s the TV studios’ turn to plug their new series to international buyers in an effort to recoup the deficits on their newly picked-up shows through international sales. The so-called LA Screenings week, which wrapped today, featured showings of the pilots of all new scripted series, often on a big screen at the studios’ movie theaters, as many or sometimes even more series stars than you could see at the upfronts and as good or even better parties too. (Everyone is still talking about the Warner Bros International TV Distribution carnival-themed gala for 1,500 on Tuesday, which featured trapeze artists and fire breathers.)
What did foreign buyers like? Overall, there was a sense that this year’s crop of shows was stronger than the past couple of seasons. The Martin Scorsese-directed HBO period drama Boardwalk Empire was a standout. And some of the other top favorites this week were the same as the frontrunners at the network’s upfront presentations last week: CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 and The Defenders, from CBS Studios, NBC’s Chase and Undercovers, from Warner Bros., and The Event, from UMS, and CW’s Nikita, from Warner Bros. There were also some surprises. The three new scripted series slated for the low-traction, low-expectation Friday night, ABC’s Body of Proof, from ABC Studios, CBS’ Blue Bloods, from CBS Studios, and Fox’s The Good Guys, from Fox TV Studios, all did very well as they seem to hit foreign buyers’ sweet spot: close-ended procedurals with strong, often quirky, characters at the center. Also somewhat surprisingly, Turner’s new hourlong comedies, legal buddy show Franklin & Bash, from Sony, and period frat comedy Glory Daze, from Warner Bros., were a big hit too. And another hourlong comedy, NBC/UMS’ Love Bites, also did well.
There was interest in half-hour comedies too, a format that rarely travels abroad. It helps when the comedies have international TV stars in them, like CBS/WBTV’s $#! My Dad Says, toplined by William Shatner, and ABC/Sony’s Mr. Sunshine, starring Matthew Perry. ABC/ABC Studios’ comedy Happy Endings and NBC/UMS’ India-based half-hour Outsourced were also well received, along with NBC/UMS’ genre offering The Cape. And while, with its documentary style that involves a lot of U.S. current events, ABC/ABC Studios’ My Generation may be hard to translate internationally, there was a lot of curiosity about the drama, including the possibility of acquiring format rights for local versions.
As for the U.S. broadcast networks, they should start seeing some of those ad dollars flowing in next week when the upfront buying market is expected to get moving.