Syndicators Shop Formats Abroad

Dr. Oz and The Doctors among formats finding new international homes 3/22/2010 05:53:00 AM Eastern

With the pressure on to find
money everywhere they
can, studios are selling a
few first-run syndicated
shows internationally as
locally adaptable formats.

Syndicators long have sold the original versions
of shows abroad. CBS Television Distribution’s
Oprah airs in nearly 150 countries.
Oprah, however, is dependent on its host’s
personality and is not easily duplicable.

On the other hand, game shows are frequently
sold as formats: CTD’s Wheel of
and Jeopardy!, both produced by
Sony, are two of the U.S.’s most successful
TV exports. And CTD has sold Entertainment
as a format in a few markets over the
years. Currently, one version is airing in Canada,
where it’s paired with the U.S. version.

After receiving several inquiries for its
talk show The Doctors, CBS Studios
International last fall took the show out as
a format, says Paul Gilbert, CBS’ senior
VP of international formats. The show just
started airing in Ukraine in January, and
producers in French Canada, Poland, Spain
and France also are working on versions.

The Doctors is a true format because besides
providing licenses, we also provide a
production bible, scripts, research material,
and the part that’s a little unusual—most
of the video segments that were produced
for the show itself and any animations the
producers created to show different procedures.
We give all that as part of the format
feeds,” Gilbert says.

Likewise, Sony has applied its experience
to its new syndicated hit Dr. Oz, which
it’s sold as a format into two markets: the
Middle East and Russia.

“Because health and wellness are universal
topics that resonate with people around
the world, this format is uniquely suited to
be customized in individual markets,” said
Ed Louwerse, managing director of Sony
Pictures Entertainment’s international production
company, 2waytraffi c, in a statement.
The U.S. version of Dr. Oz also has
been sold in 82 territories.

Warner Bros. is dipping its toe into this
market, too, offering local production on current
shows TMZ, Extra, The People’s Court,
Judge Jeanine Pirro and Judge Mathis as
well as older titles Love Connection, Change
of Heart
, Street Smarts and Elimidate. Selling
these shows as formats can help studios
such as Warner Bros. find more money in
a show and, in the case of the older shows,
keep them generating revenue.

While all of those shows are available
for local markets, Warner Bros. remains
more focused on selling primetime series
as formats. It’s currently offering Without
a Trace
as a format, with a version being
produced in France.

Still, it’s the rare syndicated show that
ends up as a format in a foreign market.
Most talk shows, like Oprah, succeed because
of their star, and court shows are
based on the U.S. system of jurisprudence
and don’t translate.