Series comprises six one-hour episodes

BIARRITZ, France — The Smithsonian Channel has acquired U.S. pay TV rights to Gallic docu series “Apocalypse: The Second World War.”

A joint venture between Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Channel acquired the series directly from France Televisions Distribution, the overseas sales unit of Gallic pubcaster France Televisions.

FTD struck a deal with National Geographic Channels Intl. in January for NGCI to handle worldwide rights on “Apocalypse.” But France and the U.S. were excluded from the deal.

Comprising six one-hours, “Apocalypse” is made up of stock footage, restored, sometimes colorized, and rendered in HD, which delivers a graphic immediacy to World War II scenes. About half of the footage has not been seen before.

Sold to 50-plus territories, “Apocalypse” scored a recent 32% share on Belgian pubcaster RTBF.

Airing its first two segs back-to-back Tuesday night on France 2, “Apocalypse” notched up 22.3% and 5.7 million viewers, way above channel average.

The docu-series underscores the continuing drive made by France Televisions into often historical event fiction and documentaries.

Fruit of this policy, one of the most talked-about shows at TV France Intl.’s Biarritz Rendez-Vous, is “La Commanderie.”

Set at a fortress in Burgundy in 1375, series combines historical recreation — picturing day-to-daylife — and a thriller element, introduced by a hunt for the Knights Templar treasure.

Produced by Tetra Media, the eight-seg “Commanderie” will have its first episode ready for viewing soon after Mipcom, Eric Verniere, FTD VP international sales, said in Biarritz.

A 75-second trailer is being showcased in the videotheque at the TV France Intl. Biarritz Rendez-Vous, which runs Sept. 7-11.

In assorted sales, FTD has sold the first and second seasons of “Ally McBeal”-ish “Clara Sheller” to the NBC U-owned pay TV network Hallmark in Eastern Europe.

The format for “Letters & Numbers,” France Televisions goldie-oldie quiz show, has been taken by Australia SBS, proof of large interest these days in programming staple fare.

SBS will produce inhouse a version for access primetime airing around first quarter 2010.

In Spain, Catalan pubcaster TV3 has bought toon series “The Podcasts,” about some tween vidgame characters who are members of a cyber-world band.

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