'Top Model' makes its way around the globe

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Besides having grown to become something of a reality phenomenon in the U.S., "America's Next Top Model" has proven to have -- if you'll pardon the expression -- legs, internationally.

The American edition has been licensed to more than 100 territories worldwide, and 15 countries now have their own versions, from "Australia's Next Top Model" to "Croatia's Next Top Model" to even "Russia's Next Top Model."

Coming soon: "Top Model" in Norway, Sweden and Holland.

"We also just launched in China," says Armando Nunez Jr., president of CBS Paramount International Television. "It took us awhile to get one off

the ground. But in Russia we've already had four seasons, and we're hugely successful in Australia and Canada as well as France and Germany."

The U.K. edition is on its fourth cycle as well, while "Italy's Next Top

Model" has improved its time-period ratings some 150% since premiering on Sky Vivo in December. The German edition is hosted by Heidi Klum. Also

in production are versions in Finland, the Caribbean and Brazil.

Nunez notes that each of the broadcasting countries incorporate subtle format tweaks to the original to account for cultural differences, "in accordance with what's more accepted locally from a broadcast perspective."

Yet while "Top Model" has spawned not only viewership the world over but plenty of series imitators right here in the U.S. (including the likes of

Bravo's "Make Me a Supermodel"), initially there wasn't a huge foreign clamor to produce the show.

"There were already a number of fashion-model-based reality shows, so the initial reception to 'Top Model' was really fairly cool," Nunez maintains. "It bred the thought of 'Oh, we've done this before. It doesn't really work here.' But the U.S. success, persistence and the passage of time together served to prove the skeptics wrong."

"Top Model" also represents an example of America exporting an unscripted format, the reverse of the import fad that's populated U.S. television in recent years. Even so, Nunez emphasizes that "this country also

has done its fair share of exporting that you just don't hear as much about -- 'Wheel of Fortune' and 'Jeopardy!' for starters."

The one link that all worldwide versions of "Top Model" have in common is the soap opera/drama element, Nunez believes. "No matter which country you're watching it in, as a viewer you're immediately engaged into rooting for and against certain contestants. That competitive aspect tends to cross borders very well."  
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