'Who's the Greatest': BBC aims to import vote-in show

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In an attempt to capitalize on the U.K. success of the series "Great Britons," BBC Worldwide has entered into a co-production pact with a group of U.S. producers to import the concept stateside with the title "Who's the Greatest?"

The BBC will be pitching the concept-a show in which viewers would vote on the 100 greatest Americans-to brand marketers and networks concurrently. They're partnering with Wittworld, Los Angeles, headed by M.J. Witt, a producer who's worked on a Barry Diller daily news magazine, and independent producers Bob Raleigh, former syndication president at Carsey-Werner-Mandabach, and Rick Shaughnessy, a veteran Internet executive.

According to Mr. Raleigh and Mr. Shaughnessy, the approach will use a multiple-media platform, hyping the show via integrated-marketing components as Web ads and promotion, event marketing, and merchandising.

While the British version did not employ product integration, the U.S. producers are open to various models, including brand marketers picking up more of the freight from the networks.

"It's not about buying free-floating media impressions," said Mr. Raleigh. "We're trying to integrate sponsors who desire a certain nuanced appeal. As the cost of scripted entertainment has gone through the roof, these types of programs could have tremendous upside for networks."

The producers are confident American audiences will respond favorably to the show. `"Great Britons' was water-cooler programming in the U.K. and it will ride the crest of the wave of [unscripted] programming from Britain coming to the States," said Mr. Raleigh, alluding to the success of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

The series, which the producers hope will launch in 2004, would kick off with a special and then give viewers a month to cast their votes for the top 100 greatest Americans. A countdown show will air, and ultimately a live show will unveil who the public's choice as greatest American.

"BBC research showed the success of `Great Britons' had a lot to do with the interactive `view-and-vote' component," said Mr. Raleigh.

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