Parental guidance


When it comes to series ideas, Endemol USA enjoys the best of two production worlds. As an offshoot of its Netherlands-based parent company, Endemol, it has access to hundreds of show formats around the world that it has free rein to repurpose for American audiences. But the American arm also develops its own content that any one of a few dozen similar Endemol divisions around the world can repurpose for other territories.

"The system winds up working quite well," Endemol USA president David Goldberg believes, "in that we're each encouraged to deviate from the original format and adapt it to our own regional sensibility. It's rare that a company will allow for anything apart from rigid adherence, but we're fortunate that Endemol appreciates and respects local cultural tastes."

Endemol USA has found ratings success by adapting NBC's "Deal or No Deal" and producing CBS' "Big Brother," both of which were based on overseas formats. It also redeveloped a moribund Dutch show called "Now or Neverland," turning it into NBC's popular "Fear Factor." Closer to home, the division worked autonomously to develop ABC's hit home-improvement show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which is now a format that any company in the group can access, with a fee flowing back to Endemol USA for any intellectual property that's picked up.

Since Netherlands-based TV producers Joop van den Ende and John de Mol merged their companies to form Endemol in 1994, the company has expanded its programming reach to 60 countries, giving each territorial offshoot access to a host of shows from which to choose. The key to success for each division is knowing the local market thoroughly.

As examples, Goldberg points to both "Deal" and "Factor" as shows whose existing formats were given significant makeovers by Endemol USA. "Deal" added a banker as a character, 26 identically dressed models to clutch the numbered attache cases that hold the denominations of cash and incorporated supporters/loved ones as part of the action just offstage.

Endemol USA has found that its changes to "Deal," which currently airs in various formats in 60 countries, have bubbled up all over the world. "Deal didn't make air in the U.S. until roughly three years after its original Dutch debut," Goldberg says.

"Nevertheless, it has had an influence on versions that have followed. We were surprised to see that the Indian version was an exact replica of ours."

On the immediate horizon for Endemol USA is a plan to craft an edition of "Deal" for the first-run syndication market "sometime in 2008," Goldberg says. And in the longer term, the company's development blueprint finds it sticking fairly exclusively to the network primetime nonscripted business.

"We see no sign of that primetime unscripted business drying up," Goldberg says.
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