Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
A significant group of Australian TV dramas and comedies, plus the film Animal Kingdom, have been the subject of U.S. remake deals in the past year. There are more in the offing and the growing trend has Oz producers considering strategies for the future of format sales. “Format deals deliver longer term, and less certain returns,” notes Nicky Davies Williams, CEO of DCD Rights, which handled global sales of The Slap, an Oz drama that NBC is prepping for an eight-episode limited series. Producers usually can’t sell remake rights up front because they need the higher license fees from local and international broadcasters to finance their productions. “You hope that everything you do is remakeable, but ultimately what you’re aiming for is that the original version gets screened in other territories,” says Matchbox Pictures’ Tony Ayres who’ll be an exec producer on the remade Slap. The original was an award-winning success at home in 2011 and also went out in such territories as the U.S., the UK and Israel.
Essential Media’s Ian Collie, who’s an exec producer of legal drama Rake, which is being remade for Fox with Greg Kinnear, tells Deadline, “Part of the problem in selling the format rights too early is that the original program has not fully reached its potential in the international marketplace and therefore you might be underselling it. Furthermore, you also risk cannibalizing your original program by having the re-versioned program out in the marketplace at much the same time.” Still, he allows, “We see selling format rights more as an ancillary exercise, but with the increasing demand and interest in overseas formats, I’m definitely considering the format potential quite early in the development phase.”
One catalyst for so many recent Down Under deals is that U.S. broadcast networks are being “pushed by the cable companies to be braver,” opines Rake co-creator Peter Duncan. Another factor, he says, is a massive injection of government funds which enabled the Australian Broadcasting Corp to ramp up original drama in the past three years. The pubcaster commissioned all five series recently acquired by the U.S.: The Slap; Rake; Hoodlum’s comedy Strange Calls, for which 20th TV secured a put pilot commitment with ABC; Review With Myles Barlow, which Comedy Central commissioned as Review With Forrest MacNeil and comedy Laid, which NBC is developing.
The Jungleboys-produced Australian family comedy A Moody Christmas is ripe for a remake and has fielded offers from the U.S. But executive producer Jason Burrows tells Deadline, “We’ve decided to hold out until we have our second series in production as more episodes will give us more options and a better bargaining position.”