Fishing for drama to fill extra nets

Some moving back to more traditional scripted fare

CANNES — As the Mip TV mart wound down here last week and crowds on the Croisette thinned, international distribs hawking telenovelas, minis and effects-laden TV movies welcomed what they said was renewed interest in drama to fill the proliferation of extra terrestrial and digital channels.

Despite the big push for reality earlier in the mart, it is now a mature genre and some execs are moving back towards more traditional scripted fare.

Even Johnny Weissmuller’s “Tarzan” will be swinging back into action on NBC Universal’s German web Das Vierte.

Web, which launched last year as a showcase for classic Hollywood films and series, picked up a film package from Jan Mojto’s Kineos, which controls the former Kirch Group film library.

Among the 50 titles in the bundle are 1932’s “Tarzan the Ape Man,” the original “Ocean’s Eleven” starring Frank Sinatra, Roman Polanski’s “Pirates” and TV skein “Hawaii Five-0.”

Warner Bros. Intl. Television Distribution has inked a multiyear volume deal with Polish commercial broadcaster TVN that covers major WB films and TV series.

Deal, which renews a relationship dating back to 1998, includes high-profile WB movies such as “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “The Last Samurai,” “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

Agreement also covers new TV series “Invasion,” “Supernatural” and “Close to Home”; renewals on series under current license such as “Cold Case” and “Nip/Tuck”; animated series and WB library titles.

Underscoring continued interest in telenovelas among European auds, Zurich-based TV distrib Dori Media Intl. sold hit Argentine teen telenovela “Rebelde Way” (The Rebels) to Austrian pubcaster ORF.

Skein, about four teens from different social backgrounds at a prestigious art school who start a band, is already on air in more than 50 countries.

While all of Germany’s main broadcasters are airing or will launch homemade telenovelas tailored to local sensibilities, Latin American product is gaining an increasingly international appeal.

“These are not traditional, old-fashioned telenovelas,” says Conrad Heberling, who heads the international distribution arm of Israeli group Dori Media. Telenovela specialist produces its skeins in Buenos Aires, operates two telenovela channels in Israel and just launched one in Indonesia.

Dori has taken the genre beyond housewife auds and is targeting wider demos. Among its catalog titles is “Rincon de luz” (Little Corner of Light), a tyke telenovela about wayward street kids who move into a children’s home.

“Telenovelas are human, they are full of emotion, they are about love and loss, dreams and disappointments — things we all experience. Plus, you know it’s going to end,” says Heberling, explaining why the series and formats travel so well.

Germany’s Sat.1 has had a huge hit with “Verliebt in Berlin” (That’s Life), its adaptation of the popular Colombian skein “Betty la fea” from RCN. SevenOne Intl. has sold the German remake to France’s TF1 and Hungary’s TV2; Sony and Fremantle are distributing the original formats in other major territories.

SevenOne also is distributing “Lotta in Love,” an original telenovela soon to air on Sat.1’s affiliate web ProSieben.

“Our telenovelas are funny. That’s the major difference,” says SevenOne topper Jens Richter, adding that the local adaptations appeal more to European tastes. “They’re not heavy and melodramatic like the originals.”

While not as light-hearted, pubcaster ARD’s telenovelas have been equally successful. Bavaria Media Television has sold hit skein “Sturm der Liebe” (Storm of Love) in Slovakia and Latvia. Distrib is peddling the series as both series and format for foreign adaptation.

ARD recently extended “Sturm der Liebe” in Germany well beyond its originally planned run, in view of the show’s regular 20% share.

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