MIPCOM delegates were treated to a range of high-profile drama screenings last week, the breadth of which speaks to how truly international the scripted business has become over the last few years.
Take Devils, a conspiracy thriller set in London but shot mainly in Rome, from Sky Italia and Lux Vide and on offer from NBCUniversal Global Distribution, with an international cast that includes Patrick Dempsey, Alessandro Borghi and Kasia Smutniak. All three were on site in Cannes showcasing the new series. Other star power on hand included the cast of all3media international’s Van der Valk, a reboot of a 1970s British drama, set in Amsterdam, which was initially commissioned by German broadcaster Das Erste before notching up presales across Europe. Sophie Cookson and Ben Miles, the stars of Keshet International’s The Trial of Christine Keeler, sat down with TV Drama on the eve of the market to talk about how the limited series about the very British Profumo affair scandal can resonate with global audiences. Likewise, Japanese star Ken Watanabe was in Cannes and discussed the international themes in An Artist of the Floating World, based on the novel by Japanese-born, U.K.-bred novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.
Developing a property that can transcend borders is no easy feat, but it’s one that Jed Mercurio has achieved several times with megahits like Line of Duty and Bodyguard. The acclaimed British showrunner and screenwriter sat down for a keynote conversation with Anna Carugati at MIPCOM before receiving the World Screen Trendsetter Award in association with Reed MIDEM. On crafting storylines and scenarios, Mercurio said, “It’s important to get the characters into a situation where they make plausible moral and ethical decisions. I’m trying to write about how institutions sometimes fail. If you look at all the major institutions that we encounter, like the criminal justice system or the health system, they tend to fail for the same reasons: because they are very reluctant to admit error. That defensive posture against reputational damage creates the ethical dilemmas of people who are involved in those organizations who encounter error or misconduct.”
The broad range of deals announced at MIPCOM reflects the fact that these days, a global hit really can come from anywhere. Nevertheless, key English-language dramas from the U.S. and the U.K. arguably generated the most headlines last week. Channel 4 is giving Star Trek: Discovery a linear television premiere in the U.K., while E4 acquired Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist from Lionsgate. all3media international secured its first deal with Pickbox NOW, with more than 25 hours of drama headed to the SVOD service. Gaumont’s English- and Spanish-language Narcos is headed to SPI International/FilmBox for Poland, Benelux, Turkey and the Middle East. A+E Networks lined up a new slate of broadcasters for season two of Project Blue Book, executive produced by Robert Zemeckis.
Turkey remains a significant provider of drama to the global market, with a raft of announcements from some of the country’s leading distributors. Inter Medya signed deals for Bitter Lands and Broken Wings to launch in Argentina and Mrs. Fazilet and Her Daughters and Hayat in Spain. Madd Entertainment licensed Kuzgun to Romania’s Pro TV, Crash to Afghanistan’s Moby Group and My Little Girl (Kizim) to Markíza in Slovakia. Madd also clinched a deal with TVKlan in Albania for Kuzgun. Meanwhile, SPI International announced it has launched its Timeless Drama Channel in 12 countries so far with 14 operators, reaching 2.5 million homes in six months. In addition, powerhouse producer TIMS&B Productions announced a deal with the Spanish indie Plano a Plano to co-develop titles.
Spanish-language fiction is also still on a hot streak, with STUDIOCANAL premiering the new Movistar original On Death Row at the market and The Mediapro Studio unveiling The Head. In addition, The Mediapro Studio Argentina & Chile unveiled a pact with VICE Studios to co-produce the series El Acantilado (The Cliff), a crime thriller set in Patagonia. And Atresmedia and MBC Group inked a deal that brings the thriller Presumed Guilty (Presunto culpable) to the Middle East.
Elsewhere in European scripted, Russia’s NTV Broadcasting Company made a number of announcements, including a distribution deal with Lagardère Studios Distribution for Five Minutes of Silence and a pact with Arait Multimedia for Countdown in Vietnam.
STUDIOCANAL licensed the French drama Vernon Subutex and the Danish comedy-drama series Pros and Cons to Topic, a new SVOD platform that launches on November 21 in the U.S. and Canada. Newen Distribution’s Cassandre was picked up by several European broadcasters, among them NBCUniversal’s 13th Street in Spain. ORF-Enterprise signed a volume deal with Huawei Video, sending 130 hours of content to Italy. Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) commissioned a second season of its hit original series Honour, which is distributed by Eccho Rights.
Asian distributors that made news included JKN Global Media, which signed a deal with Rajawali TV, a leading free-to-air channel in Indonesia, that includes the award-winning Thai drama Love Destiny. GoQuest Media Ventures inked a deal with Media Group Ukraine (MGU) for the distribution rights to the detective series Markuss. Nippon TV licensed the format rights for Abandoned to Turkish producer MF Yapim. And reflecting the booming scripted market in India, the thriller Hostages, an Armoza Formats title, was ordered for a second season by Applause Entertainment, while BBC Studios made a deal with Hotstar for a local version of Doctor Foster.
Known IP remains a compelling proposition in the busy scripted space. At MIPCOM, ZDF Enterprises said it was teaming with Red Balloon Film on an adaptation of the best-selling Alea Aquarius German young adult novels by Tanya Stewner; Reel One Entertainment announced it had partnered with the U.S. production company Element 8 Entertainment and Paris-based La Sabotière to develop an anthology series based on the best-selling novels of the American crime writer Mary Higgins Clark; and Picturestart revealed it had acquired the film and television rights for Wattpad author Rachel Meinke’s book Along for the Ride.