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Selling foreign shows to U.S. cable is as easy as XYZ.

Selling Foreign Shows to U.S. Cable is as Easy as XYZ

In surveying the 27 U.S. cable networks that purchase programming from overseas, the range of acquired percentage vastly differs, but the response remains the same: the future is looking bright for foreign producers. But, as the targeting advantage to cable is doing niche programming, steps still need to be taken to bridge the communication gap between U.S. cable networks and overseas distributors.

"Nowadays, I don't think the overseas TV/film community necessarily knows what's going on over here," said Andrew Trentacosta, director of acquisitions and scheduling for Playboy Enterprises. "If the producer would have gotten input from a U.S. rep, they would have been able to address the U.S. market a bit better, rather than coming in cold," he stated. "Over the years, foreign distributors have developed an irrational understanding of the U.S. TV/film market."

Playboy buys foreign films as well as other forms of programming, both in short form (half hour or less) and long form (generally up to 60 minutes). Their fees for outside product is not determined on a per hour basis. How much they pay for product is based on several factors, among them being the quality of the product, the age (when it was made), and the best price which can be negotiated with the distributor or producer. The percentage of foreign product varies from month to month, with foreign product making up less than one quarter of their programming.

The genre of programming must be selected to be appealing to an American audience. "Know your audience's needs, wants, concerns--go for specifics," advised Frank Jett, senior vp, programming and production for Nostalgia, which caters to an older demographic of ages 45-55. Jett is willing to work with foreign countries interested in "picking his brain," adding that "in the mid 90's, over 50 per cent of the U.S. population will be over 50. The same is happening all over the world."

Most U.S. audiences are not used to dubbing, so, cable networks such as VISN, Bravo and A&E buy their foreign product with English subtitles. "Our license fees are on the low end, and are negotiable," said Debra Wells, director of VISN acquisitions. Of the 35 per cent of Bravo's non U.S. product, 10 per cent are foreign films.

Daniel Wilson, executive producer of special projects for The Monitor Channel, suggested that the foreign distributor/producer utilize "creative elements familiar to the U.S. audience." According to Wilson, The Monitor Channel plans to acquire more foreign programming, in their attempts to look at the world from "a global perspective."

On the other hand, A&E and Discovery have done well in taking a European production and repackaging it for U.S. television. In prime-time, eight out of A&E's 28 weekly hours is foreign acquired; for Discovery, the volume is 50 per cent.

Comedy Central, a newly merged channel, has jumped right in by soliciting stand up comedy footage, both domestically and internationally. "We pay $75 to $150 a minute, depending on the quality and the length of time we can license for," said Ben Zurier, director of program scheduling, who has worked with the BBC in the past. Wilson hoped that more attempts at comedy shows will be made to "cross cultures."

With offices in London, the soon-to-launch Crime Channel, has bought foreign news footage that president Arnie Frank has budgeted approximately $1 million for the year. "We are interested in receiving documentaries to illustrate the numerous ways crime is handled in each country. Already, we have assorted specials, series and documentaries from countries worldwide, either in dubbed, subtitled, or in the original English language, which show criminal activities, investigative and police techniques throughout the world."
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Title Annotation:includes list of contacts
Author:Hornik, Susan
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:Advertisers' control of TV shows seen as unavoidable, detrimental.
Next Article:McGrath to head ISL.

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