TF1 counts on Spanish cop thriller

Italy's Rizzoli buys 'Boarding School'

MADRID — In the run-up to Mip TV, Gallic broadcaster TF1 has reupped on rights to Spanish cop thriller “Cuenta Atras” (Countdown), tying down its second season.

Italy’s Rizzoli has licensed redo rights to another hit Spanish series, college mystery skein “El Internado” (Boarding School), and sitcom “Aida” has been sold for local reversioning to Chile.

In further TV deals, all struck by Spain’s Imagina Sales Intl., Canada’s Serie+ has licensed both first and second seasons of “Countdown.”

Germany’s MME/Filmpool, Italy’s Magnolia and Romania’s Mediapro have also licensed “Countdown” format rights. Mediapro has taken rights to the original series as well.

“Countdown” has already aired in its original version on Spain’s AXN, Italy’s Fox Channel, and NBC U’s “13me Rue,” all basic satellite/cable feeds.

International deals for Spanish programs used to be few and far between, but no longer. They’re now flowing steadily.

Several new factors are in play.

Imagina, the IIS parent, reps the merger of Globomedia, Spain’s biggest TV drama producer, and Barcelona-based conglom Mediapro, one of the biggest film production companies in Spain.

Under Beatriz Setuain, its new head of film sales, Imagina is rapidly building its movie sales muscle, both tapping Mediapro and third-party pics.

New features for the Cannes Festival include: Nacho Garcia-Vellila’s “Chef’s Special,” Murilo Pasta’s Brazilian road movie “Carmo, Hit the Road,” with Fele Martinez; Eduard Bosch’s family film, “Angeles Inc.,” and, perhaps most notably, given huge sales on recent Spanish genre movies, Juan Carlos Claver’s horror pic, “God’s Forgotten Town.”

Other new pick-ups are Jesus Ponce’s “Lazy Days,” a youth drama, and high school gore spoof “Don’t Say a Word.”

Selling film and TV allows the company to build market presence for both. “We now sell both film and TV and on all fronts — theatrical, DVD and TV, in format and original sales. There are synergies. Our TV division will sell our movie library,” said IIS sales director Geraldine Gonard.

Backed by a capitalized conglom, IIS is rapidly filling some of the void left in Spanish film sales by the downsizing of Sogepaq. And IIS has the capital to push out the boat on marketing, which certainly doesn’t hurt sales.

Europe, including its Hollywood studio niche channels, is opening up to European series, and Spanish series are evolving too. Production standards are rising: “School” was shot in HD.

Pushing the familiarity factor, Spanish producers used to focus on dramas and comedies about families or white-collar professionals, which were heavy on Spanish character foibles.

But the new generation of Spanish programs are different. For example, “Countdown” and “Boarding School” both employ genre elements. “Countdown” is a race-against-the-clock police procedural, where Corso, a young inspector, breaks the rule book to save lives. “School” has suspense, murder and supernatural overtones.

With the start of spring in Europe, minds turn to sex, and here too Spanish programs have something to offer. Casts are often young and sexy, and there’s a fetching earthiness about many plots. Casual sex is casually presented.

Corso, for instance, is played by the perma-stubbled, hunky Dani Martin, a pop singer in his other professional life. He’s introduced to viewers in the first seg of “Countdown” climbing cavalierly out of bed after a menage-a-trois with two girls he picked up at a party. Nobody’s much concerned about getting dressed.

The volume of sales at Imagina is not high enough to justify talk of a Spanish TV export boom but there is now a steady stream of deals, and the local biz has escaped the doldrums that held it back for many years.

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