Acquisitions Buzz: Even Before Landing Series Orders ‘NCIS: Red’ & ‘S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Generating Keen Interest

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EXCLUSIVE: Every year, there are a handful of shows that are considered locks for pick up by UK broadcasters. This past season, shows that fitted into that category were The CW’s Arrow, Fox’s The Following, NBC’s Revolution and CBS’ Elementary, just to name a few. After the LA screenings last year, my sources were clear that multiple broadcasters were interested in each of those series. And that’s usually the way it works, after the various acquisitions departments sample what’s on offer from the various studios at the LA Screenings (usually around May 20th), they’ll make their decisions and go after the UK rights. Sometimes that leads to heated bidding as was the case with NBC’s Revolution – but the point is that the heavy buzz always happens after the LA screenings. Normally, no acquisitions executives will go out on a limb and already be keen on acquiring a given show before sampling it or even before it has landed a series order from one of the US networks. Except, that’s exactly what’s happened this year and given the two shows in question, that is, perhaps, no real surprise. I’ve learned that the acquisitions executives at no less than four UK broadcasters have got their eyes on either (and in one case both) the NCIS: Los Angeles spin-off NCIS: Red and ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. and are carefully monitoring pilot season in anticipation of series pick ups from CBS and ABC, respectively.

ABC’s S.H.I.E.L.D. is one of the few pilots to have already wrapped production and counts Paul Lee, president of both ABC and production studio ABC Studios amongst its supporters, and given that seems destined for a series order at the network. I hear that, while they wait for word of that almost inevitable series order, acquisitions executives at BSkyB, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Universal Networks International are eyeing the project. One source tells me that should it get a series order, given its heady auspices, BSkyB would likely go after the project with the intention of airing on Sky1. Channel 4 and Channel 5 are also closely watching the project, which is not surprising when one considers that Channel 4 was home to Smallville while Channel 5 is currently in the market for as many as 3 new US series. My source at Universal Networks International tells me that the pilot is being eyed with a view to air it on Syfy UK. But given their recent multi-season commitment to Defiance, I hear that acquiring a network series may be prohibitively expensive, especially if a bidding war erupts for the series. While all the broadcasters in question would wait to see the pilot before bidding, the early buzz is certainly indicative of the appeal this project already has. Written by Joss Whedon, S.H.I.E.L.D. follows the daily activities of the intelligence agency knows as Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistic Directorate (S.H.I.E.L.D.), which has appeared in numerous Marvel comics and feature films. The cast includes Ming-Na, Clark Gregg, Brett Dalton, Elizabeth Henstridge, Ian De Caestecker and Chloe Bennet. ABC Studios and Marvel TV are producing, with Whedon, Jeph Loeb, Jeffrey Bell, Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen serving as executive producers. Assuming it receives a series order, Disney Media Distribution will handle international distribution.

Over at CBS, the network is piloting yet another spin-off of the NCIS franchise, this time spun-off from NCIS: Los Angeles. This new series, currently known as NCIS: Red, is being produced as a backdoor pilot, and will air as an episode of the aforementioned NCIS: Los Angeles. It would be hard to deny that, like this CSI franchise, the NCIS franchise is a hot property. Already, I hear, BSkyB and Channel 5 are carefully eyeing the project. Being home to NCIS, I hear that FOX are also carefully considering the prospective series, but wouldn’t head to the LA Screenings intent on acquiring it. But one insider tells me that if and when it becomes available on the international market, they are unlikely to acquire it as they’d expect “heavy bidding” on the series and FOX is shifting to a focus on broader entertainment, which I’m told will include the pick up of one or two new comedy series and potentially some UK commissions. While not generating anywhere near as much buzz as S.H.I.E.L.D., NCIS: Red is also looking good for both a series pick up and a UK sale. For those not following pilot season to closely: NCIS: Red follows a mobile team of agents who are forced to live and work together as they crisscross the country solving crimes. The cast includes Kim Raver, John Corbett, Miguel Ferrer, Edwin Hodge, Scott Grimes, Gillian Alexy and Kenneth Mitchell. CBS Television Studios and Shane Brennan Productions are producing with Shane Brennan serving as executive producer. Assuming it receives a series order, CBS Studios International will handle international distribution.