Please wait...
Please wait...


Navigating new trends in the global content business.

French scripted formats adapting to a new market

French studios will be putting more emphasis on selling remake rights to their scripted hits at Rendez-Vous next week, following successful adaptations of Call My Agent! and HIP.

StudioCanal’s Beatriz Campos believes UFOs is ripe for adaptation

For French studios in the scripted space, Biarritz-based Rendez-Vous is a prime opportunity to secure tape sales of new titles. But increasingly, there is also an eye on the remake potential of their content slates.

Buoyed by the successful adaptations of French series such as Call My Agent!, The Bureau and HIP in recent years, those studios are now embracing a twin-track approach that makes established titles as much of a priority as new launches.

Beatriz Campos, senior VP of global sales and production financing at StudioCanal, says synergy with sister company Canal+ has created “a strong portfolio of French IP for us to take to the global market. We have 13 French dramas in our scripted formats catalogue. We have a wide mix of genres in our line-up – from comedy to thrillers.”

Key French titles that Campos believes are ripe for adaptation include UFOs, Interns, All the Way Up, Baron Noir, Nox and Spiral. As an aside, she notes that StudioCanal’s investment in European production companies means “we also have a wealth of IP available to be reimagined in France for French audiences.”

Beatriz Campos

For Campos, increased interest in adapting French drama is primarily linked to a step change in production quality over the last decade: “The quality has grown exponentially with series like The Bureau, Spiral, Lupin and Call My Agent featuring bold characters, strong writing and globally relevant themes.”

Recent adaptations from StudioCanal’s stable include Calls, a Canal+ shortform series remade by AppleTV+. And Campos is optimistic about future deals: “We have a number of titles that resonate with current international trends in scripted formats. For example, there is global demand for female-driven formats like Doctor Foster, Happy Valley and The Split. We expect this demand will help series such as Nox and Surge. Following the pandemic, there is also continued appetite for premium comedy that offers escapism. A key example in our portfolio is UFOs, a French hit that offers a fun and refreshing take on this classic sci-fi genre.”

In terms of the buying pool, Campos says global streamers are interested in formats. “They have been prioritising local content,” she says. “In a risk-averse climate, formats with strong success rates in originating territories provide security.” In parallel, she notes that commercial free-to-air broadcasters are also looking at French scripted formats, and particularly “crime procedurals with broad appeal and lighter tone.”

Growing interest in scripted formats does, however, add a new complexity to IP portfolio management. Campos says: “Our priority is always to protect the original finished tape and maximise its exposure in the first instance. So we’re always thinking about when is the right time to explore format conversations after exploiting the original version. That said, some IP is easier to export as a format. And there are also market-by-market decisions. Some territories, for example, are less open to foreign-language content.”

Stanislas Frecher

Stanislas Frecher, senior VP of business affairs and format sales at Federation Entertainment, agrees that decisions regarding formats need to be made on a case-by-case basis. “Factors like regional specifications, financial dynamics and the attributes of each series play pivotal roles in determining strategy. It’s also important to remember that global streaming platforms impose restrictions on content – and this poses challenges.”

Having said this, he stresses that originals and remakes can co-exist in the same territory. “Adaptations can be highly localised,” he explains, “allowing the original and remake to thrive side by side. Sometimes you can see a reciprocal relationship at play, whereby localised remakes stimulate interest in the original tape and vice versa.”

Frecher says there has been a rising demand for scripted formats across the board, “and this naturally extends to French formats.” Federation has a long-running format success in the shape of Calt Productions’ hit comedy Camera Café. This show has spawned 26 remakes over the last two decades and continues to solicit interest.

The company has also enjoyed success with The Bureau, which it recently sold to Paramount/Showtime, with Frecher noting: “They acquired global tape rights as well as English-language remake rights.” The US remake, titled The Department, will be directed by George Clooney.

Frecher says achievements like this have “heightened the visibility of made-in-France creations” and encouraged Federation to double down on formats. “We have created a dedicated formats department and have been striking notable option deals lately, for instance on series such as Mister 8, Undercover and One of Us,” he adds.

One of Us “tackles the universal theme of disability with humour”

One of Us is a TF1 series produced by Fanny Riedberger for Federation-owned prodco Habanita. “It tackles the universal theme of disability with humour, making it relatable across cultures. The strength of its concept and the absence of culturally specific narrative elements make it easy to adapt,” says Frecher. “Also from Fanny Riedberger, we have a series called Six Women. Themes of self-discovery and initiation, combined with the show’s visually captivating storytelling, also offer adaptability beyond France.”

Frecher points to another trend he believes will stimulate additional interest in French formats: “We are seeing adaptations travel within the same streaming platform from country to country. For instance, Netflix has been exploiting global rights to Call My Agent but also commissioned an Indian adaptation, Call My Agent: Bollywood. Netflix’s adaptation of Money Heist into Money Heist: Korea and Amazon Prime Video’s remakes of Modern Love in Mumbai, Tokyo and Amsterdam underline this strategy.”

Julia Schulte, senior VP of international sales at France TV Distribution, says she has seen rising demand for scripted shows over several years, “with a growing number of producers approaching us for our scripted formats as well. As the demand grows, we have been presenting a line-up of content that is more and more diverse.”

Schulte senses that French writers have raised their game – in response to increased competition from abroad: “French writers were so challenged by the international competition that they have put a lot of originality, quality and effort into their writing, and this drives the success of the French scripted formats today.”

Event miniseries Vortex comes from Quad Drama

The market for scripted formats is very diverse, says Schulte, and has resulted in several success stories. “We are distributing [together with Newen] formats rights to Call My Agent. This show has around 10 adaptations produced or in production, with another 10 under option. Our daily show for France 2, Chronicles of the Sun, was adapted in Greece and the sitcom Happy Tribes had a remake in Ghana.”

Looking ahead, a priority for Schulte is event miniseries Vortex, produced by Quad Drama. “The show aired on France 2, was then released as ready-made by Netflix worldwide and we are now starting conversations with producers about remakes,” she says. “It is an original mixture of crime, sci-fi and mystery that engages on a very emotional level.”

Schulte also singles out Aspergirl, produced by Patafilm for OCS, as a series with remake potential: “It is an off-the-wall dramedy about a mother and her son dealing with autism. It is a very authentic and touching show that is brilliantly written.”

While adaptations are growing in importance, Schulte stresses increased investment in French scripted content means it is more crucial than ever to secure tape sales on ambitious shows. “French production has become very strong and has the power to travel worldwide, either through a streamer or as a pre-buy or coproduction. So first we pitch the project and sell the original show, then we promote the scripted format.”

Mediawan Rights has “high hopes” for Black Butterflies

Mediawan Rights, another major force in French scripted content, is also seeing growing opportunities in formats. Randall Broman, the company’s director of international fiction sales, says: “France produces a great volume of shows, so it’s no surprise to see some lending themselves to formatting. Also, there is a certain style and quality in the writing that makes them appealing as formats internationally.”

Successes include thriller The Mantis, which has already been adapted internationally. “Given current development schedules, we are confident further adaptations will be announced soon. We have plenty of other option deals out there too, so we anticipate the remainder of 2023 and 2024 to be particularly hot,” says Broman.

Identifying titles with remake potential, Broman says: “For serialised series, we have high hopes for thriller Black Butterflies, produced by Mediawan. For procedurals, the focus will be on crime series, such as Mismatch and The Unclaimed. These shows are pure entertainment and their premise, characters and storylines are universal.”

Like Frecher, Broman says there is nothing to prevent original series and adaptations co-existing: “Platforms adapting a show often ask that the original series be taken off the market, but we resist that. For us, tape sales and formats are equally important, and we take the view that one should never be the subject of a holdback against the other.”

Elaborating, he says: “An original show, specifically in a foreign language, is hardly ever a threat to the success of a local adaptation coming down the line, so why forgo potential revenue from tape sales? It reminds me of my days living in London, when The Killing was available both in its original Scandinavian version and US adaptation.”

HIP is Newen Connect’s biggest format hit at the moment

The Newen Connect team is heading to Rendez-Vous with a strong track record in scripted formats. Following success with long-running cop series Candice Renoir, its biggest international format hit right now is HIP, from Septembre Productions and Itinéraire Productions for TF1. After sales in Greece, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it was recently confirmed that ABC has picked the format up for the US market, where it will be produced under the title High Potential.

Explaining the show’s appeal, Nadia Chevellard, senior VP of distribution, says it is “an incredibly compelling, funny story of a fiercely intelligent single mother, who works as a cleaner at a police station and soon realises she’s better at solving crimes than the police.”

Nadia Chevellard

Since Newen is a wholly owned subsidiary of TF1, format sales head Andrew Sime says they are “fortunate to represent a mix of formats from Newen Studios group producers, third parties and programmes that have aired on TF1.

“In particular, we’re seeing interest in TF1’s comedy drama Past Forward, produced by My Family and following a frustrated adult who finds a way of emailing his younger self,” says Sime. “We’re also pushing daily scripted formats aimed at younger viewers, such as Where it All Begins from Telsète, which airs on TF1 in early primetime and follows the highs and lows of a group of young chefs.”

Unlike some of their compatriots, Chevellard and Sime have seen more success with linear broadcasters. “Their viewers tend to prefer to watch series in the local language, and with recognisable local stars. By adapting a hit show, it allows the broadcasters a quick and reliable way of producing local content with a proven track record,” notes the latter.

However, they support the view that “with the right curation and partners, formats and finished programmes can co-exist. We start with finished programme sales, then use buyer feedback to inform our strategy. If programme sales are strong, we can take our time with the format sales, but if there’s slightly less demand for the original series, we move more quickly into those format conversations,” explains Chevellard.

The Newen execs confirm that they are seeing an increase in opportunities for their French formats. “Thanks to HIP and Candice Renoir, we have built a strong reputation for original formats, often with strong female leads,” says Chevellard.

“We expect substantial growth, whether that’s in the daily space – Where it All Begins, Tomorrow is Ours – or for premium primetime stories like HIP, Dark Hearts and Past Forward. For us, the top-selling genres are crime and thriller, and always character-driven. But buyers are also interested in lighter subjects, so comedies and comedy dramas are proving popular.”