'Blades' adds int'l appeal with Russian skaters

Sophomore run includes Olympic champ Ekaterina Gordeeva

TORONTO -- With a Russian format sale for its "Battle of the Blades" series so far eluding Insight Productions, the Canadian producer has a novel way to encourage a deal: Stack the second season for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reality TV competition series with Russian skaters.

The sophomore run casts Russian figure skaters Violetta Afanasieva and Olympic champion Ekaterina Gordeeva to help teach former National Hockey League players graceful dance routines.

And former NHL great Valeri Bure, the "Russian Pocket Rocket," will also partner up with a former figure-skating ballerina on the homegrown elimination-style reality series.

The Russian casting for "Battle of the Blades" follows Insight Productions in March signing up Swedish format distributor Sparks Network to handle international sales of the Canadian ice skating competition series.

Insight and Sparks Network are betting interest in turning local ice hockey heavyweights into Lycra-clad dancers is more likely to come from nations dominant in international figure skating and ice hockey competitions, including Russia, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, South Korea and Japan.
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