FremantleMedia’s Summer Rx for B’cast

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Telenovelas in English? That just might be the “new concept” programming sold to broadcast networks to keep viewers from migrating to cable and elsewhere during the summer doldrums.

An English-language version of the Spanish-language staple -- a serial romance that normally runs to 150 episodes and always ends happy -- is one of the concepts under development by FremantleMedia North America Inc., producers of ratings juggernaut American Idol.

During a briefing with reporters Tuesday, FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz said the company’s European operations have successfully rewritten the genre for the German market, creating a hit with a title that translates to "Love in Berlin."

The concept is being peddled to broadcast networks, and it could hit the airwaves in the summer of 2007. However, it will have fewer episodes than the traditional 150-episode arc.

Other programming concepts will take a page out of cable networks’ playbooks, notably those of Food Network and GSN.

"We think food is a big area," Frot-Coutaz said, but she did not describe new programming concepts. Previously, FremantleMedia has produced a reality show with English chef Jamie Oliver and replicated that show in other countries with local chefs.

FremantleMedia hopes to replicate the success of last summer's breakout hit, Dancing with the Stars --a concept imported from England -- by importing a success of its own, a game-show marathon played by celebrities.

Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon was staged as ITV1's 50th-anniversary programming this past year, and it was a big hit with British viewers. It could be copied here with FremantleMedia shows such The Price Is Right and Family Feud.

Frot-Coutaz said it was unlikely that such a program would seek partnership with GSN, because FremantleMedia's network clients normally want exclusivity on the content they buy from the programmer.

The company is also nearing the day when American Idol will appear on cable, but the programmers are trying to develop something new for fans besides a simple reprise of earlier seasons. Because Idol is a Fox show, its affiliated networks would have the inside track for off-network rights, Frot-Coutaz said.