Fremantle eyes int'l co-produced series

Says reality-driven TV strategy has 'run its course'

TORONTO -- With the global broadcast business in turmoil, Fremantle Corp. principal Irv Holender insists he's found a perch in the eye of the storm for the traditional game show, soaps and reality series distributor: co-producing commercial dramas with international partners.

"We're trying to get away from reality and the type of shows that have no shelf life or evergreen value," Holender said as Toronto-based Fremantle completed a host of pre-sales at MIPCOM.

"We find that not only is there a market for dramas and suspense series and thrillers, it's a market that is needing content," he added.

In the works for Fremantle are two action TV series co-produced with Italian partner DeAngelis Production & Distribution (DAP).

The first is a classic western series with a 22-episode order to be shot in Vancouver. Holender is tight-lipped about Italian and German network pre-sales to be announced in early November.

The second untitled series is based on a best-selling book and has a 12-episode order.

The Canadian company is also to co-produce 26 new episodes of "The Further Adventures of Black Beauty" with Australian partner Avoca Media Holdings PTY, and to be shot in Australia.

The reboot is based on the 1970s "Black Beauty" TV series that Fremantle, originally founded in 1952 by the late Paul Talbot, helped produced.

Ahead of MIPCOM, Fremantle also announced it will co-produce 26 episodes of a new animation series, "Fang Force," with U.K. producer Strict Machine (HR, Oct. 5).

The new cartoon series portrays a family of vampires taking on covert missions to combat villains.

Holender joined Fremantle in 2008 after the New York-based TV producer and distributor was bought by Toronto-based Kaleidoscope Entertainment.

He said the success of the hit Canadian cop drama "Flashpoint," picked up by CBS and sold worldwide, underlines the international potential in Canadian series that tap tax credits and other lucrative subsidies available from official co-production partners.

"They (series) are expensive. But if you do them as a co-production, limiting the risk and the investment of the production company, and at the same time the co-production partner owns their territory, then everyone has an asset they're willing to invest in," Holender said.

Fremantle's shift to dramas also comes as the reality-driven TV strategy adopted by broadcasters in recent years, and in which Fremantle was heavily invested, appears to have run its course.

"In the last few years, we (Fremantle) had good reality shows. I just don't see that lasting," Holender said.
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