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.