Trends in 10 Key Markets

Tianjin Film Studio

A quick survey of players and productions in the international television business.

AUSTRALIA: Aussie TV execs at MIP will be eyeing news from home when the year’s most contentious court case gets under way April 4: Kerry Stokes’ No. 1 TV network, Seven, faces off with third-ranked Network Ten over Ten director Lachlan Murdoch’s poaching of Seven sales chief James Warburton. Seven wants to enforce a noncompete clause in Warburton’s contract, which would leave him out of a job till October 2012. Whatever the outcome, the affidavits and evidence promise to be juicy.

CANADA
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is struggling to hold Hockey Night in Canada for Saturday nights. Rival CTV has snatched the pubcaster’s other major TV sports: the Olympics, the CFL, curling and pro soccer. The CBC hired U.S. sports exec Jeffrey Orridge to stickhandle a new NHL TV contract. The challenge: CTV and rivals Rogers and Shaw Media see sports as the last destination for local TV because Canadians have started watching U.S. network series on-demand.

CZECH REPUBLIC
Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra suspended military police general Vladimir Lozka and two other officers after Lozka ordered a March 12 raid of Czech public television. Masked commandos were unsuccessful in their search for a report that led to the dismissal of former military intelligence head Miroslav Krejcik in 2007. Czech Television filed charges against the military police for abuse of authority and requested an investigation of state prosecutor Vladimir Muzik, who had approved the operation.

FRANCE
French humorists are no longer sniffing around for a good joke thanks to a cocaine scandal at public TV network France 2. The network’s star anchor Jean-Luc Delarue was arrested in September after 16 grams of cocaine were found at his home. France Televisions canceled the show, and Delarue went straight to rehab before embarking last month on an anti-drug tour across the country to educate youngsters on the dangers of drug addiction. Comedians are still mocking the journalist on talk shows and in the press despite his efforts to revamp his public image through community service.

GERMANY
Known for his ’70s-style curly blond mop and Lady Gaga-esque outfits, Thomas Gottschalk has ruled over Germany’s screens since 1987 as host of the country’s No. 1 variety show, Wanna Bet …? As many as 24 million Germans used to watch Gottschalk and the show’s VIP guests — from Tom Cruise to Michael Jackson (who appeared twice) to Paul McCartney to Justin Bieber to, yes, Lady Gaga. But falling ratings (the show now draws less than 10 million viewers) and a near-fatal accident on a recent show prompted Gottschalk to exit the stage. His Wanna Bet ...? in June will be his last.

MALAYSIA
 Malaysia and North Korea “will enhance cooperation in information-related areas that include news and television documentary exchange,” the official Bernama news agency reported recently. It remains to be seen what rigidly Stalinist North Korea can swap with Muslim Malaysia. Bernama reported the same day that Radio Television Malaysia had recently cooperated with the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia to award study grants to children via their joint reality show Adik-Adikku — hardly the sort of thing Pyongyang broadcasts.

POLAND
The Polish version of HBO’s In Treatment, titled Without Secrets, produced by Anna Kepinska through Telemark and HBO Polska, is in postproduction. The show will premiere in the fall, with 25 episodes of 45 minutes each. The drama marks the first time an HBO series has been adapted to the Polish market.

SINGAPORE
Singapore’s MediaCorp did not acquit itself well during the recent earthquake in Japan. Shortly after the quake struck, it offered targeted clients and agencies a new ad package on the grounds it was expecting viewer numbers to surge on its Channel NewsAsia. However, the move backfired and MediaCorp was roundly and widely criticized, forcing it to apologize.

SOUTH KOREA
South Korean authorities concluded last week that a recently uncovered letter allegedly written by the late Korean TV actress Jang Ja-yeon was forged. Earlier this month SBS’ primetime news ran a story about a man identified as Jeon who said he received about 50 letters written by Jang before she took her own life in 2009. Jang celebrated a brief period of fame after appearing in a hit TV drama series Boys Over Flowers. That same year she committed suicide, leaving behind a diary revealing sexual abuse by her agent and entertainment industry executives.

UNITED KINGDOM
The sleepy English village — so long the backdrop of U.K. small-screen dramas — has suffered a rude awakening. The suggestion by Midsomer Murders creator Brian True-May that such a setting amounts to “the last bastion of Englishness” has caused an uproar — at least when coupled with his admission that, when it comes to casting the hugely successful ITV show, people of color need not apply. True-May, who blundered into the controversy by telling the Radio Times magazine that the show “wouldn’t work” with ethnic minorities onscreen, has apologized for the faux pas and agreed to go quietly at the end of production of the current run.

ASIAN ANIMATION: At a Glance

CHINA
Local governments in several Chinese cities have helped animation businesses set up shop under a directive from the highest level of the country’s one-party government. Legend of a Rabbit, a feature-length 3D cartoon about a humble bunny who takes on a badass panda to save a kung fu school, is the Tianjin Film Studio’s $12 million attempt to give the upcoming import Kung Fu Panda 2 a run for its money.

SINGAPORE
Singapore is consolidating its position as a world-class animation hub. A portion of Rango was made in the city-state by Singapore-based Industrial Light & Magic, a division of Lucasfilm. In addition, the company has worked on 16 other feature films, including the Transformers series, Iron Man 2 and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Government financial support of higher education also supplies trained personnel, with Ngee Ann Polytechnic School of InfoComm Technology recently offering its first Animation and 3D Arts diploma.

HONG KONG
Although animation for television is still in its infancy in Hong Kong, the local animation sector has received a big push from public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong, which has been commissioning as many as 12 animated shorts each year as a way to encourage local animators. In 2010, the broadcaster produced Cat’s World, an eight-part original animation series shown on primetime on the two terrestrial stations. RTHK also organized the Cat’s World International Animation Festival and Animated Shorts Competition in December to motivate the fledging sector.

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