MADRID — AT&T-owned DirecTV Latin America, the region’s biggest satellite TV multi-channel operator, has acquired rights to European heist thriller “The Last Panthers,” a flagship television-series co-production of Europe’s biggest two pay-TV groups, Sky and Vivendi’s Canal Plus.
With 19 million clients in Latin America, thanks in large part to partnerships with Globo at Sky Brasil and Televisa at Sky Mexico, DirecTV will add a score or more territories to “The Last Panther” sales markets, which now reach 122 territories in total, a mark of just how widely select Euro TV series are licensing these days.
Canal Plus aired “The Last Panthers” in France, which Sky rolled it out Nov. 22 across all five European territories where it operates, reaching 21 million subscribers in Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria and Ireland. Prior sales were closed with SBS Australia, HBO Nordics and across all of Fox Networks Group Crime channels in Eastern Europe.
DirecTV’s bow of “The Last Panthers” is the latest deal announced in a bold drive by Sky and Canal Plus to partner on crime thrillers which have the authenticity of great U.S. modern TV classics but bring distinctly European locales and a European feel to the table.
Commissioned by Sky Atlantic and Canal Plus with Sundance TV, the series was produced by France’s Haut et Court TV, makers of “The Returned” (which also aired on Sundance TV), and Britain’s Warp Films (“Southcliffe”), a regular Studiocanal movie production partner. Featuring a prestige European cast – Samantha Morton (“Minority Report,” “Longford”), French star Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet,” “The Past”), Croatian Goran Bogdan (“We Will Be the Champions”) and John Hurt (“Midnight Express,” “Elephant Man”) – “The Last Panthers” was shot in English, French and Serbo-Croat and set in London, Marseilles and the Balkans.
It kicks off with a daring diamond robbery in London, which has all the hallmarks of the Balkans’ Pink Panthers, then transfers to Marseilles and the Balkans as a British loss adjuster, Naomi (Morton), is sent by her shady boss (Hurt) to investigate the crime.
Naomi and her boss both have their personal agendas, though Naomi’s key backstory is delayed until late in the first season’s six episodes. “The Last Panthers” also posits a new European crime scene where the smart money isn’t in small-time local racketeering (Marseilles) or jewel heists (London) but rather in a development contract for a new E.U.-backed airport in the Balkans. And everyone – Eurocrats, Naomi’s insurance firm, the Pink Panthers – wants a bit of the action.
Willard Tessel, general manager of OnDirecTV, said the series felt “closer to cinema than to television.”
“The Last Panthers” was selected as the 2015 Mipcom opening-night world-premiere TV screening. It was also nominated for best international co-production by the Edinburgh Intl. Television Festival 2016, and competes in the category of best breakout international drama for Mipcom 2016’s upcoming Content Innovation Awards, presented by Digital TV Europe.