'A return to great entertainment'

L.A. Screenings kicking off this week with high hopes

Great TV programs no longer can exist in a vacuum, they have to be able to thrive in today's multimedia media environment, said Laurie Younger, president of Disney-ABC Worldwide Television, at a gathering of program buyers from around the world Sunday night at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

About 1,500 program buyers flew into Los Angeles late last week and during the weekend for the annual Los Angeles Screenings this week, where they will view all of the program offerings from the studios that have been picked up for the coming season.

Younger, who was set to address buyers Sunday night before a party on the studio lot, noted, "Last time we met, I encouraged us to embrace together the positive change that technology will undoubtedly bring to us. Since then, we've seen evidence that content can really resonate when its presence on multiple media platforms actually complements a traditional TV broadcast.

"For that reason, we have continued across the course of this year to work with you to bring programming to audiences whenever and wherever they want it, delivering original mobile content, expanding the scope of our VOD offering, providing high-definition materials," she added. "This type of activity will continue to be the expression of our commitment to using technology to enhance the consumer experience and all that it can mean to you, to your advertisers and particularly to the viewers," Younger said in a statement released before her address to buyers.

At the event, Disney-ABC International Television launched its new network series, including the new one hour dramas "Dirty Sexy Money," "Eli Stone," "Private Practice" and "Reaper," and the new half-hour comedies "Carpoolers," "Cavemen," "Miss/Guided" and "Sam I Am." Also joining its portfolio are three series for cable that premiere in the summer — "Army Wives," "Greek" and "Slacker Cats." Combined with returning shows, the program presentation was " our biggest ever (international) upfronts," she said.

This was a first on two fronts for the studio. Although it was the seventh annual "international upfront" for Disney, this was the first to be held on the studio lot. It also was the first time that the presentations were made under the division's new moniker announced last week, Disney-ABC International Television. Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC Television Group, also was on hand to greet buyers.

A recipe of high-quality programming, marketing support and cross fertilization in new-media outlets has propelled U.S. programing to the forefront of broadcast schedules worldwide. Sweeney noted that in the past year alone, the volume of U.S. programs airing in Europe has increased by 20%.

Celebrity guests set to be on hand to help Disney-ABC celebrate were Sally Field, Calista Flockhart, Rob Lowe, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, Patrick Dempsey, Daniel Dae Kim, Jorge Garcia, America Ferrera, William Baldwin, Jill Clayburgh, Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs and Christina Applegate.

CBS Paramount Television International president Armando Nunez also was playing host during the weekend to international buyers. He noted that this year's pickups by the networks indicate that "the bar has been set high" and that the U.S. studios "continue to make programming that is very high-caliber." Falling into that mold are the CBS Paramount dramas "Cane," with Jimmy Smits, "Swingtown" and "Life Is Wild," which was lensed in South Africa.

On the Warner Bros. lot, buyers were getting their first glimpses of such new shows as "Gossip Girl," "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," "Pushing Daisies," "Chuck" and "Big Shots." "This is one of our strongest slates of new programming in years," said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. International Television.

The buyers will trawl through al the studios throughout the next week, including Fox and NBC Universal as they view the latest program offerings. Some buyers already were talking up "Journeyman" with Kevin McKidd from 20th Century Fox International and "Lipstick Jungle" from NBC Universal.
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