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Kees Abrahams

One reason for paying close attention to Kees Abrahams and the international production unit he runs at Sony can be found in China. That’s where Sony broke new ground last fall, as co-producer of the first U.S. talk show for the Chinese market, with the launch of a local version of Dr. Oz that has become the top-rated program on Zhejiang Satellite TV.

Such productions represent a major shift for the Hollywood studios as they look for ways to capitalize on local production, which is now the fastest-growing part of the international TV business.

Sony was the first of the major Hollywood studios to embrace local production in a big way, producing more than 9,000 hours of TV programming outside the U.S. in the last 15 years. As part of that strategy, Sony spent Y114.3 million ($185 million) in 2008 to acquire the Dutch company 2waytraffic and put co-founder Abrahams in charge of expanding its local production operations. Last year, Abrahams opened new production companies in Brazil and Dubai.

Those developments are particularly notable because NBC Universal, Disney, Warner Bros., CBS and Fox have also been expanding their format sales and local production efforts in recent years. Sales of U.S. movies and primetime series still dwarf these local production efforts, but if Abrahams and other major studio executives have their way, many of the studios’ hit factories will be based outside Hollywood.