Fremantle, Man Union sign prod'n pact

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CANNES -- In a bid to crack the notoriously tight Japanese TV market, FremantleMedia, producers of "X Factor" and "American Idol," have signed a wide-ranging production alliance with Japanese giant TV Man Union.

The agreement, the first of its kind between a western production company and a major Japanese player, will see the two companies adapt each others' formats for their respective territories as well as co-produce original content for the international market.

"We've have an operation in Japan and have been studying the market there for two, two and a half years now," Fremantle CEO Tony Cohen told The Hollywood Reporter. "The Japanese market is very different than any of the markets we work in. It became extremely clear to us that the only way we could have any kind of commercial enterprise there is through a partnership with a local company."

Japan has proved resistant to most successful international formats, with local viewers preferring homemade game shows, reality and series.

"Japan is a very domestic market and western producers have trouble getting their shows on the air there," said TV Man Union chairman and CEO Yutaka Shigenobu. "We have relationships with all the major Japanese broadcasters and we understand how to adapt a western format so that it will work for a Japanese audience."

TV Man Union is one of Japan's largest indie production companies with long-running titles including local TV staples "Discovery of the World Mystery" and "Homestay in the World."

Cohen said Fremantle and TV Man Union have already identified several formats in both their catalogues they feel could work on the international market. Initially, the two companies plan to focus on adapting non-fiction formats but say the cooperation could eventually extend to co-producing and adapting serial drama and long-form fiction.
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