FreMantle Hopes Telenovelas Will Translate


Los Angeles— FremantleMedia has created a good business out of developing concepts, then recreating them in countries all over the world. It is the producer of a little show called American Idol, which started in the United Kingdom as Pop Idol and now plays in localized version in 32 countries.

The company’s next initiative: To see if producers can adapt the Spanish-language staple, the telenovela, and turn it into an English-language success. The formulaic romance — girl meets boy, circumstances hold them apart, boy gets girl in happy ending — could be interpreted to reflect American culture and interests and sold to broadcasters as the remedy to summer viewer defections to cable and elsewhere, said Cecile Frot-Coutez, the company’s North American CEO.

Already, Fremantle has successfully adapted the format for Germany, under a title that translates as Love in Berlin.

“With a big push this has a really big chance of being a new genre,” she said, possibly by summer 2007. A U.S. adaptation would be shorter than the traditional 150-installment arc, she added.

During a briefing with reporters last week, Fremantle executives said they believe American programmers are more open now to adaptation of successful ideas from other countries, given the success of such imports as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Survivor, Lifetime’s How Clean Is Your House? and American Idol.

The production company would also like to see if it could duplicate the success of this summer’s breakout hit, Dancing With the Stars. The company anticipates importing a version of Ant & Dec’s Game show Marathon, a format, in which celebrities participated in episodes of classic game shows, which performed well as part of England’s ITV1’s 50th anniversary programming during the last year.

Since that potential series would overlap the interests of cable’s Game Show Network, Frot-Coutaz was asked if Fremantle would approach that channel for co-promotion or other opportunities. Clients expect exclusivity on programming concepts, so a partnership is not possible, she responded.

She was also asked whether American Idol would soon air on cable. In the U.K., Pop Idol has a cable post-show. But Frot-Coutaz indicated that might overexpose the American version, which is already broadcast twice a week during its season. The company is also loathe to merely sell rerun rights for past seasons, indicating Idol fans should get more than that, she said. But producers have not figured out what that new programming element might be.

Ultimately, it is likely the cable rights will stay within the Fox family, she added. But when asked pointedly if it would be a good fit for Fox Reality, Frot-Coutaz said Fremantle would have to see the ratings for the channel.

“[Fox Reality Channel] is a player, but not a big player,” she said.