week in review digest


First Look Int'l opens U.K. operation

LONDON — First Look International, the overseas sales and financing arm of First Look Studios in Los Angeles, said Wednesday that it has opened a U.K. base of operations and hired Celsius Entertainment's Tim Grohne to lead the unit as vp international sales. "The London base will allow us to have much more day-to-day contact with European distributors," First Look International president Stuart Ford said. FLI also announced hires for its Los Angeles operations: Ruzanna Kegeyan is joining as vp international sales from Bob Yari's Syndicate Films, and Catherine Quantschnigg, who joins from Showtime International, is director of international sales.

BBC extends global arm via Freehand deal

SYDNEY — The BBC's push into global production has accelerated with commercial arm BBC Worldwide's acquisition of a 25% stake in Australian independent production shingle the Freehand Group, the British broadcaster said Wednesday. The Australian investment is part of a wider global strategy to become active in local content production and marks the first deal of this nature in any market since the broadcaster announced its intention to expand into the international production sector last year. BBC Worldwide's stake in Freehand gives it the right to distribute new Freehand programs and formats globally and gives Freehand first-look production rights in Australia and New Zealand for all BBC and indie formats to which BBC Worldwide holds rights.

Mediaset sues soccer league over scandal

ROME — Italian broadcasting giant Mediaset sued the country's top soccer league Wednesday, seeking damages for what the company called "a loss in viewer interest" in the wake of a game-fixing scandal that broke last year. Mediaset is seeking damages against the €61 million ($79.9 million) fee it paid for the right to broadcast the majority of Serie A soccer matches. Soccer broadcasting was a central part of Mediaset's development into Italy's largest private broadcaster and the main rival for state broadcaster RAI. Mediaset is controlled by former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who also controls AC Milan, a Serie A team.

NBC Uni's Wright speaks at piracy confab

BRUSSELS — NBC Universal chairman and CEO Bob Wright on Tuesday called for governments and businesses to join forces in a rigorous alliance to combat piracy and counterfeiting. Wright, speaking at a two-day meeting of industry execs and government reps at an anti-piracy meeting in Geneva, appealed to broadband providers, Internet auction sites, financial intermediaries and shipping companies to act more promptly in stanching the flow of illegal downloads and trading on their watch. "Business leaders have to put it at the top of their agendas," he said. "The days of 'hear no evil, see no evil' must come to an end."

Uni, Imagine team for 'Friend' remake

Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment have acquired the rights to remake the 2006 French comedy hit "Mon meilleur ami." Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce "My Best Friend" through his Universal-based shingle alongside Tazora Films' Agnes Mentre. The original film, directed by Patrice Laconte, opened late last year and grossed $5.5 million in its first three weeks in France. The story centers on Catherine, who refuses to believe that her business partner, the unlikable Francois, has a best friend, so she challenges him to set up an introduction. Scrambling to find someone willing to pose as his best pal, Francois enlists the services of a charming taxi driver to play the part.