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Mark Burnett to produce 'The Shark Tank' adaptation of 'Dragons' Den'


By Christopher Rocchio, 02/14/2008 

Mark Burnett has apparently found a new project he can sink his teeth into.

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Burnett has inked a deal with Sony Pictures Television to create a stateside version of Dragons' Den, a Japanese reality series that follows ambitious entrepreneurs as they try to sway successful tycoons to invest in their ideas, Daily Variety reported Wednesday.

Burnett's U.S. version of the format -- which has also been used in the U.K. and several other countries, including Canada -- is being developed under the title The Shark Tank but will keep the import's formula intact, according to Variety, as the wannabe moguls pitch their plans to the already established "sharks" with the goal of landing enough venture capital investment to move their idea forward.

"It's about seeing people squirm, either in their unpreparedness or their lies," Burnett told Variety. "People come in with an idea they think is brilliant, and it's awful.  But then you get the truly inspired ideas, and the Sharks have a chance to fight it out."

Even when the entrepreneurs entertain the idea of investing, Variety reported they're not pushovers, instead acting like the business-savvy people they truly are and trying to strike a deal that works best for them.

"If you're coming in desperate for money, it's like there's blood in the water," Burnett told Variety. "If you want to be a great entrepreneur in the U.S., you had better be ready to swim in shark-infested waters."

Sony first attempted to establish an American Dragons' Den adaptation in the States roughly four years ago, according to Variety, however networks were reportedly reluctant to order the show because its format was deemed similar to that of Burnett and Donald Trump's The Apprentice reality series on NBC.

Then in July 2005, ABC ordered nine episodes of what would become American Inventor, which provided up-and-coming creators a shot at $1 million to launch a new business or product.  American Inventor has since aired two seasons on ABC and -- somewhat ironically -- British businessman Peter Jones created the series after serving as one of the five "Dragons" on the U.K.'s Dragons' Den.

Sony Pictures Television programming executive Zack Van Amburg told Variety he's not worried about similarities between the two.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but they got it wrong," he told Variety about American Inventor, which ABC did not renew after its second season.  "I think we have the recipe to get it right.  That show focused on things and products. We're focusing on people and dreams. That will have much more impact."

Burnett and Sony plan to begin pitching the project to networks later this month, Variety reported, adding The Shark Tank deal was a result of the Survivor producer's "personal relationships" with Sony chairman Howard Stringer and Sony Pictures Television president Steve Mosko and a review of the various properties the production company owned.  It also didn't hurt one of Burnett's favorite shows is reportedly Dragons' Den's U.K. edition.

"We've been trying to find a way to collaborate, and we promised ourselves 2008 would be the year," Burnett told Variety.

Mosko told Variety he hopes the collaboration is the beginning of a "longer-term relationship" with Burnett that include more unscripted projects for Sony.

"We are really going to move to ramp up our reality and light-entertainment business for networks and syndication," Mosko told Variety. "It's a huge priority for us."

(Photo credit ABC)


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