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Mediaset España Buys France 2’s Hit Skein “Witnesses”

Spanish TV giant opens up to European TV fiction acquisitions

MADRID — Marking a significant step towards diversification of its international TV drama sources, Spain’s TV giant Mediaset España has acquired French procedural skein “Les temoins” (“Witnesses”) to air shortly on Cuatro, its second most-watched channel.

The first season of “Witnesses” will land in Spain after becoming an international sales hit for France’s company Newen Distribution, which sold the drama in more than 25 territories, including Channel 4 in the U.K. and Netflix in North America.

Created and directed by Herve Hadmar and Mar Herpoux, the duo behind critically-acclaimed skein “Pigalle, la nuit,” the six-part mystery thriller series was originally commissioned by French pubcaster France 2 from Fabienne Servan-Schreiber‘s production house Cineteve.

In its debut in France in March 2015, “Witnesses” scored more than six million viewers, the best result for a French TV drama aired by France 2 in five years. The series also won TV France International’s export prize for best drama.

For Mediaset España, deal represents an early bet on European TV fiction at a broadcast network whose its international drama acquisitions has traditionally focused on U.S. productions.

”European TV series’ quality has grown dramatically; they have nothing to envy to those of the U.S.,” said Mediaset España head of acquisitions Ghislain Barrois.

“Some 16 years ago, the only way to get TV dramas -high-budget productions- was to buy them from the U.S. majors. Now the market has changed, and new players with different storytelling approaches have arrived,” he added.

Set in the North of France, “Witnesses” turns on a passionate and resilient female cop, Sandra Winckler, who investigates a wave of strange murders linked to Paul Maisonneuve, a crime squad legend who is now retired but forced to return to duty.

“In Spain, what’s probably happening with European TV dramas is what’s already happened with Spanish TV fiction: The stories are closer to the TV audience that those that come from the U.S.,” Barrois said.

A “Witnesses” second season is currently in production, and scheduled for a spring 2017 release on France 2.

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