Show Biz


As striking actors try to shut down the production of commercials in this country, the job action could become a boon for ad agencies working overseas.

One of those agencies is Los Angeles-based Milk & Honey Films. It has offices in Rome, Moscow, Prague and Mexico City, all of which are beyond the reach of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

“We are trying to get the word out to all of our clients old and new that we are outside SAG and AFTRA jurisdiction,” said Howard Woffinden, executive producer with Milk & Honey Films Production Services. “The production community exists to solve problems. The strike is a minor blip on the radar, but I see it as a long one.”

Woffinden, whose company makes commercials for such clients as Reebok, Timex and McDonald’s, said his office in London could be affected by the strike if English actors stand behind their Hollywood brethren. But other offices would not be impacted.

“You get top quality for less (overseas),” said Woffinden, whose company generated $10 million in revenue last year.

But Woffinden added that shooting overseas has its own issues. “The negatives are the cultural differences you have to cross,” he said. “And you are not at home. If the premise is that the film world peaks in Hollywood and everything else is downhill, then you will require some extra time and patience to find what you need overseas but you get it.”

So why is ABC developing only six pilots for situation comedies this season when its rivals have more than a dozen each in the works?

It’s the topspin from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” TV’s highly rated, multiple-night game show, according to industry observers.

“ABC is basically saying, ‘We won’t need sitcoms next season,'” a producer said. “Why spend $30 million to $40 million to develop them when they can’t get on the schedule anyway?”

The veteran producer expects ABC to carefully watch the progress of “Millionaire” next season. If it falters, the network can gear up sitcom development as needed.

“Remember, this is a series than comes on three times a week,” he said. “If one night slips, they can move the show to another night or drop one installment. It’s a fad show, but you don’t know how long the fad will last, which is why ABC will be scrutinizing ‘Millionaire.'”

Why did Fox merge the sales departments of its regional sports networks and its owned-and-operated stations like KTTV-TV Channel 11 in Los Angeles?

Prior to the April 27 merger, sales teams from those Fox units found themselves competing against each other in the marketplace. Under the new arrangement, headed by Jim Burke, president of sales for Fox TV stations and the regional sports networks, the unified sales force will offer advertisers deals that combine cable and broadcast platforms in a one-stop format.

“It’s about efficiency and not about cost-cutting,” Burke said. “We are looking to grow both assets.”

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