BBC ponies up for Canal Plus series

'Spiral' is nets first foray into fiction

PARIS — Canal Plus has sold its first fiction series to the BBC — the first time the U.K. web has picked up a Gallic skein.

French cabler seems to be making good on its promise to transform its fiction into an edgier, sexier and ultimately more lucrative product.

Police drama “Engrenages,” which the BBC will translate into “Spiral,” is Canal Plus’ first foray into fiction of that length since it shifted its strategy about three years ago to model itself after Anglo-Saxon fiction.

“It’s extremely encouraging,” said Fabrice de la Patelliere, head of fiction at Canal. “French fiction doesn’t export well — doesn’t really export at all, in fact — mainly because much of it is trapped in outdated writing and narration styles.”

The BBC bought the eight episodes of the first season to air (with subtitles) on BBC4, most likely before the end of the summer, per de la Patelliere.

After years of emphasizing movies and sports over fiction, Canal Plus has been ramping up production. The web is shooting two original fiction series: “Mafiosa,” about a group of Korean gangsters, and the provisionally titled “Securite Interieur,” focusing on French counterespionage efforts.

Also in the works is season two of “Engrenages,” which is produced for Canal by Son et Lumiere, and a French adaptation of British series “The Office.”

De la Patelliere said while Canal would like to “master the British model” of fiction and “have the nerve of a channel like HBO … we have a lot of catching up to do.”

“It’s disillusioned. It’s modern. And I think it’s that modernity that attracted the BBC,” he added.

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