MONTREAL: New business in Europe and the call of American first-run syndication has lead to the second season renewal of the Montreal-based Telescene Film Group teen sitcom series Student Bodies. The live-action/animation series has been renewed in the U.S. by syndicator Twentieth Century Fox Television, and in Canada by YTV and Global Television Network.
Following the current round of production (26 half-hours in 1998 and 13 in 1999), Telescene will have completed 65 half-hours.
According to Michael Yudin, co-executive producer of the series and executive VP with Telescene Entertainment in New York, Student Bodies has strong potential in Europe, as well as syndication prospects in the U.S. ‘Disney International has purchased the show throughout their channels in Europe and Asia,’ he says. The deal with Disney is important, not only because it’s Disney’s first international group deal, but because the teen/tween market in Europe is largely a new developing demographic. The deal was brokered by Sunbow Entertainment, the series’ international sales agent.
Citing a comparable U.S. syndication deal, Yudin says Saved By the Bell, produced by Peter Engel Productions in association with NBC, was syndicated in first run to USA Network and TBS, and has ‘generated well over US$300,000 to US$400,000 an episode.’
‘That’s the benchmark,’ he says. ‘But that (deal) started over 10 years ago, so we would like to think the dollars are much higher. There are different windows [now], so you may get a little less out of syndication, but then you can go to cable.’
The series costs roughly US$350,000 per episode, while the deal in the U.S. ‘is a straight 50-50 partnership’ between Telescene and Twentieth Century Fox Television. Student Bodies covers 90% of the U.S. market, including Fox O&Os, and has an average ratings growth of 31% since last fall’s launch.
This spring, when the U.S. networks announced their new season schedules, Yudin says it became even more clear that production is increasingly deal-driven by costs. ‘There were shows they wanted but couldn’t make the right business arrangement [to acquire them]. The beauty of Telescene is that we are a network-acceptable producer in the U.S., and we are able to present a business arrangement that is very attractive to the U.S. market,’ says Yudin.
Student Bodies features animated sequences by Montreal’s Cine-Groupe. Executive producers with Yudin are Robin Spry, Paul Painter and Michael Klinghoffer, one of the series creators.