Nora Roberts telefilms franchise extended


CANNES -- Peter Gruber's Mandalay Television and Stephanie Germain Prods. in association with Germany's Tandem Communication are extending the successful Nora Roberts franchise of telefilms.

The firms signed a deal with Lifetime Television for four new TV movies based on the best-selling author's romance novels.

Mandalay and Stephanie Germain will develop six of Roberts' novels and turn four of the resulting scripts into two-hour, $5 million telefilms. Shooting is set to begin in the fall for delivery in spring 2009.

Tandem again will handle worldwide sales for the four-film collection starting at the MIPTV market, which kicks off today in Cannes. Tandem sold the first Roberts telefilms -- "Montana Sky," "Angels Fall," "Blue Smoke" and "Carolina Moon" -- to about 160 territories worldwide.

The first Roberts series was a ratings smash for Lifetime, tripling the network's average primetime numbers. The films performed strongly in most territories, winning nights for ARD in Germany, TF1 in France and Antenna 3 in Spain. Antenna 3 already has picked up rights for the new series.

"There are fewer U.S. telefilms being made these days, so the ones that get done have to be real events," Germain said. "That's where we're lucky to have Nora Roberts as an pre-established international brand."

Added Mandalay chairman and CEO Gruber: "Nora's worldwide appeal is unparalleled. With Stephanie Germain and (Manderlay TV's) Peter Strauss' producing talents and Tandem's input and international know-how, we're building a significant television franchise that is reaching the farthest corners of the Earth."

Although casting has not begun on the new series, Germain said that producers will be looking for talent with a "worldwide appeal" similar to the cast of the first series, which included Heather Locklear, John Corbett, Diane Ladd and Jacqueline Bisset.

"Audiences have proven through the fantastic ratings worldwide that they are ready for more Nora Roberts movies, and we're very excited to see another four added to the growing library," Tandem head Rola Bauer said.

In addition to the Roberts series, Tandem will be doing MIPTV presales on another worldwide best-seller after the Munich, Germany-based boutique operation last week acquired adaptation rights to Ken Follett's medieval epic "The Pillars of the Earth." Tandem will produce a limited series based on the book together with Scott Free Prods.