'Touch' Bows to Strong Intl. Ratings

Global launch strategy boosts audiences in U.K. Italy, Latin America and other markets
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Twentieth Century Fox's strategy of launching its new Touch drama in over 100 markets around the world within a week of the show's U.S. debut, seems to have paid off, with the studio announcing strong ratings for the show in many markets around the world.

In its debut last week on Sky 1 in the United Kingdom, Touch was the top ranked show in its time period among all basic cable and satellite channels. In Italy, on Fox Italia, the show was the channel's second highest-rated premiere ever and in Spain on Fox it was the top rated show in its time period of among adults 18-49 among pay TV channels.

Likewise, on the Fox Latin American Channels, the show produced double or triple digit increases in the channel's average audiences in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.

The series' second episode on Global-TV in Canada also outperformed the January 25 special sneak preview telecasts of the pilot by 27%.

The studio also reported successful launches in ProSieben in Germany, TV3 in Norway and Channel 1 in Russia.

The results are notable because the payoff in sales and then renewals of a successful U.S. drama in international markets can be massive. In some cases, revenue from international sales can exceed the license fee producers of scripted dramas are getting from the U.S. networks.

As a result, all of the major studios have been working much harder to promote the launch of their shows on broadcasters around the world and a large number of celebrities will be travelling to Cannes in France next week during MIP-TV to promote shows.

While that is nothing new-the studios began beefing up their international promotional efforts in the 1990s as international broadcasters began paying more for hit dramas -- Fox's effort for the global launch of Touch took a number of those efforts to a new level.

News Corp.'s integrated sales unit Fox One put together a global buy with Unilever, which sponsored the launch of Touch in over 100 territories around the world. The studio also set up a very high profile media tour that that took Kiefer Southerland to London, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow and New York.

Unlike theatrical films, which are often launched simultaneously around the world to maximize their promotional efforts, the studios have not traditionally launched TV shows simultaneous in international markets because of the difficulty of coordinating the launches with so many broadcasters and the logistics of quickly dubbing or subtitling the shows into many different languages.

But studios like Fox and Disney have been trying to move towards larger international launches of TV shows because this can strengthen the impact of their promotional efforts while reducing the chance of piracy. Tighter launch schedules can also help strengthen audiences because large numbers of fans wouldn't be learning about plot developments from web sites prior to the shows launch in their local market.