By LOUISA CLEAVE television editor

A big United States entertainment company has bought the rights to the Popstars television show in a first for the New Zealand industry.

The series follows the creation of an all-female band, from auditions to the recording of an album.

The high-rating New Zealand series spawned the all-female band TrueBliss and an Australian series, which was also a ratings hit, formed the group Bardot.


A deal has been struck to screen Popstars on the Warner Brothers network and makes the series the first New Zealand format sold to America.

It is a coup for Popstars creator Jonathan Dowling, who sold the programme rights to Australian production company Screentime but still receives royalties from sales.

The Popstars format has also been sold to production companies in England, Canada, Germany, Italy and Denmark.

Mr Dowling said he was very impressed and very happy that Screentime had brokered the United States deal.

But while he and director Bill Toepfer would receive a cut of the profits from the sale, and probably other deals such as the music and merchandise, they did not stand to make millions.

"I'm at the end of a long food chain and there will be a little bit of food."

Mr Dowling said the decision to sell the rights to Screentime, which also operates in New Zealand, was the right one.

"[Screentime head] Des Monaghan had the resources and the skills and contacts to make this deal and I'm very impressed. It shows that ideas travel and a good idea can come from anywhere."


Richard Driver, executive producer of Screentime New Zealand, said the deal was an important step for the local television industry.

"It's not significant in earnings or export dollars, but it's significant in that it gives New Zealand producers a great calling card.

"If Popstars is successful on US networks, and if enough people know it is an original concept of New Zealand, suddenly we are able to maybe get a few more meetings with people who otherwise may have ... considered us as people from the bottom of the world."