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Kicking the tires overseas seems sound strategy to him

With so many shows calling themselves "unscripted" being pitched around Hollywood in these angst-filled days of the writers strike, it's often hard to get a development executive's ear. Reality and unscripted concepts are all that's out there, so the competition in the unscripted arena is a lot tougher than normal.

Veteran producer Scott Sternberg wanted to avoid this predictable roadblock when he was planning his latest series, "Hollywood Uncensored," a high-end grab bag of Hollywood gossip, news and lifestyle.

"I wanted to give 'Hollywood Uncensored' a real shot at being picked up in the U.S. — where, let's face it — strong entertainment news shows are abundant," says Sternberg, whose production shingle hangs at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood. "We decided to launch the show internationally and build a ratings history so we could come back to this market with a track record and say, guess what, we have a program that works and we can prove it." His hope, he says, is to cut through the clutter of unscripted pitches here with a show that has already caught on with audiences.

Sternberg was very well aware that the majority of popular reality shows to air in the U.S. have come from the U.K. or the Netherlands or some other big international marketplace and had ratings records before ever being pitched and licensed in the U.S.

Now, as Sternberg and his production partners pack bags for NATPE with his Hollywood celebrity show, he is boasting buoyant numbers in several international markets including Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, South Korea, the Middle East and Indonesia/Malaysia, among others. On Australia's most recent rated telecast Jan. 3, the weekly show generated a healthy 477,000 total viewers, a 62% increase from its premier number. The series is distributed by Alfred Haber Distribution.

Official ratings data from these markets shows week-to-week growth in almost every case, with key younger demographics having been particularly strong growth areas.

"It's fantastic to see our show getting such strong ratings in these major markets," Sternberg says. "To outperform major hits like 'The Simpsons' and 'Friends' in key demographics shows the strength of this format."

The series is centered on news from the "king of paparazzi," E.L. Woody, who serves as an executive producer. Industry vets Bob Sanitsky and Ian Reinhard also serve as executive producers. The term "paparazzi" is usually guaranteed to translate to sleaze and to spark celebrity temper flare-ups. But Sternberg points out that this is not an ambush-type paparazzi show.

"Woody has been doing this for 30 years and we feel he is kind to celebrities and does not hassle them," Sternberg says. "This is a lifestyle show and is as much about fashions and shopping and cars as it is about Hollywood news and events."

"I saw that so many shows have come to the U.S. with strong track records in Europe or elsewhere and it just made sense to reverse the thinking and get ourselves into the international market to begin with," he says. "Look at all the successful British companies — BBC World, 19 Prods. and so on — that have hit shows in the U.S. So you think to yourself, 'This may be something to investigate.' "