Will Americans abroad bite for Burger TV?

13th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

A fledgling television channel named after the all-American meal hopes to become, as early as this fall, the first to exclusively target Americans living overseas. In a television market already replete with American programming, do expat Americans w

Are you terribly homesick—for Oprah? Are your weekends empty of meaning as they as empty of (American) football? Having trouble sleeping without Jay Leno? Do you sometimes just have an urge to spin the Wheel of Fortune?

The ubiquitousness of American cultural exports doesn't mean much to American expatriates who watch television abroad.

First of all, most of it is dubbed or sub-titled, much of it is aired weeks or months after it's been aired in the US, and much of the second-tier programming (chat shows, college sports) is absent altogether.

The company's logo: the abstract burger

Americans abroad: how much do you really miss American TV—and what would you do to get it? That's the question posed by a fledgling company operating out of Paris that calls itself Burger TV and hopes to become "the first general entertainment television channel dedicated to American expatriates in Europe."

At a time when American programming is more popular and more available than ever, Burger TV is hoping to cater specifically to the American abroad, homesick for the kind of programming that doesn't normally export—and in English, thank you.

For the moment, the company isn't, publicly, much more than a business plan and a logo: its founder and chief spokesperson Rick Grossman says he can't yet reveal any specifics such as what you could see or how you could sign up in any of the initial target countries: Benelux, Italy, Spain, France and Germany. Nor will he yet name any potential investors.

But he has now rented office space in Paris and he is booked to spend this next week at MIPTV in Cannes, which, with 12,249 attendees from 96 countries, is one of the biggest confabs for television executives in the world.

*quote1*Grossman says the interest is there, however, and he will spend the week trying to nail down some of the programming and distribution deals that will make Burger TV a reality, an event he is forecasting for early September of this year.
"The question people keep asking me is 'Why hasn't this been done?' And I can't answer it," said Grossman.

American TV takes the lead

One reason is that it may seem like overkill; US shows are more popular and more available than ever in Europe. This is partly due to the sheer number of channels needing programming these days, but even more than that is a newfound appreciation for American-style TV. Instead of the formulaic dramas and laugh-can sit-coms that once seemed the typical US fare, the latest offerings have dazzled European viewers.

Indeed, that paradox was the joke behind last fall's launch campaign for Five US, an all-American digital TV channel available in the UK (and, illegally, on the continent.) The campaign's punchline: "Who says nothing good ever came out of America?"

"The perception of what people expects from American TV has changed. Now they get very slick American TV with huge actors and huge production values," said Five spokeswoman Tamara Bishopp. "The joke was that, gosh, brilliant things come out of America."

The most popular show? CSI, which last week captured a 19 percent share of total viewers; Five US overall ranks number nine out of nearly 400 cable channels available in the UK, according to Bishopp.

There's no questioning the appeal of the latest American shows; Five's parent company, RTL, is also hosting all-American nights in Germany; but the company does not plan to launch a channel comparable to Five US for continental Europe.

"The main reason: TV still is and probably will, at least for the next few years, remain a local business," said via email Oliver Fahlbusch, RTL Group's vice president of marketing in Luxembourg.

The expat viewer

But this is precisely why, rather than competing with the national stations for the "global" brands that are already imported and localised, Burger TV wants to aggregate programming s

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