Magazine article Variety

Formats Fuel Foreign Sales

Magazine article Variety

Formats Fuel Foreign Sales

Article excerpt

Gaul's robust TV biz generates skeins ripe for foreign licensing

Television buyers searching for fresh fiction formats need look no further than France, which is emerging as the hot source for licensed fare.

Sales of Gallic product have recently taken a higher profile - following the earlier lead of such territories as Israel and Scandinavia - with France adding sizzle to a burgeoning marketplace with its formats.

Some credit the country's robust film business for the upsurge. "France has one of the world's most vibrant and innovative post-war cinema cultures, and it seems that in the last 10 years or so, the quality is breaking through their television output," says Lucy Criddle, acquisitions manager for Sky Arts, which recently picked up two edgy Canal Plus shows, 1871-set drama skein "Maison Close" and contempo dramedy series "Hard."

Many of the highest-profile recent export deals have been English-language remake rights of Canal Plus fiction formats targeting U.K. and North American networks: Steven Bawol's Helion Pictures acquired the format of "Mafiosa" and "Pigalle, la nuit" with "Dexter" showrunner James Manos Jr. tapped to pen the pilot ; "The Kennedys" producer Asylum Entertainment picked up makeover rights to "Braquo"; and BBC Worldwide Productions acquired "Spiral's" U.S. remake rights with Sam Mendes' Neal Street Productions on board to develop. Endemol Studios also purchased remake rights to French pubcaster's France 2's "Les hommes de l'ombre."

With its slate of ambitious, often-daring and well-financed shows, Canal Plus has been powering this trend, increasing its investment in fiction by over 90% to over euro50 million ($63 million) in 2011.

"In the last five or six years, Canal Plus has really stepped into the original fiction arena in a way that does sort of recall HBO and Showtime in the U.S.," says Bawol, "and they've managed to develop a lot of series that are world-class in terms of the look, feel and writing of the shows."

Emmanuelle Bouilhaguet, sales topper at Europe Images Intl., points out the climb in format sales is a global trend. "For the past 18 months or so, discussions over fiction formats have become more concrete, both for acquisitions and sales: there is an excitement over Spanish, Latin American and French formats."

Europe Images InU. has sold the format of Canal Plus' short comedie series "Bref to Spain's Shine, Canada's TVl, and the company is in advanced negotiations to sell the option to an Italian producer. …

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