Tepid TV response in London

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The difficult economy, the hangover from the WGA strike and the uncertainty surrounding the next SAG contract has made things weird for studios hosting London mini-screenings to make up for the dearth of TV product available to view at the Los Angeles Screenings in May.

"What we have now are screenings that are so close to when the shows are going to air that people are saying, 'There's no point in bidding now; let's wait and see how it goes before we decide,' " one major U.K. buyer said.

"There isn't a scramble to put money on the table in the way there is in Los Angeles," another major terrestrial player said. "I haven't offered for anything yet. I'm not ready to make offers, and there is nothing so compelling that I think I have to."

So far, ShineReveille, Disney and Fox have held screenings for London-based buyers. (All the American heavyweight sellers as well as program buyers will have another chance to make deals during the Oct. 13-17 MIPCOM market in Cannes.)

NBC Universal's planned event was canceled, sparking concerns among the buying community about its upcoming shows.

Warner Bros., which was able to show most of its fall-season shows in Los Angeles, sent out screeners, as did CBS/Paramount, which is fielding the buzzed-about, youth-skewed "90210."

Although some shows — notably "90210," ABC Studios' romantic drama "Cupid" and the 20th TV-produced threesome "Dollhouse" (from Joss Whedon), "Life on Mars" (the remake of a British drama series) and comedy "Better Off Ted" — are among programs that buyers praise, the appetite for U.S. fare seems cooler than at any time in the past few years.

Although some shows, notably "90210"; Whedon's "Dollhouse" from Fox; ABC Studio's romantic drama "Cupid"; the Fox-distributed remake of British drama series "Life on Mars"; and the Fox comedy "Better Off Ted" are among shows that buyers praise, the appetite for U.S. fare seems cooler than at any time in the past few years.

Instead of giving over as many slots to U.S. fare, key buyers such as Sky One and Channel 4 are seeking success with their own commissioned shows.

But despite the gloom, distributors remain upbeat.

"The reaction has really been strong," said Catherine Powell, Disney/ABC senior vp distribution executive for Northern Europe. "I would challenge the view that the quality has changed. The tone is dramedy — it's light. Viewers are moving away from the high-concept shows. We're all going into a period of economic doom and gloom, and they want something engaging and that will take their minds off it." (partialdiff)
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