MIPTV's Hot Titles Focus on Breaking Down Barriers

Sophie Mutevelian
Endeavor Content's female-focused espionage drama 'Killing Eve' premiered at the new CannesSeries television festival alongside MIP.

The most notable titles on offer in Cannes were ones that combined talent from both sides of the Atlantic and often involve a U.S. pay TV or streaming company working with a European free-to-air broadcaster.

If globalism is out — in the age of Trump, Brexit and Chinese-American trade wars — the international TV industry didn't get the memo. Instead, the message out of this year's MIPTV, the global TV market that runs in Cannes through April 12, was one of breaking down borders: between cultures, territories or business models.

The hottest titles on offer in Cannes were ones that combined talent from both sides of the Atlantic and often involve a U.S. pay TV or streaming company working with a European free-to-air broadcaster. Harlan Coben’s Safe, an eight-part thriller from the titular American author featuring Dexter star Michael C. Hall, is the result of a partnership between Netflix and C8, the French free-to-air network owned by Canal+.

Endeavor Content's female-focused espionage drama Killing Eve, produced by U.K.-based Sid Gentle Films, which premiered at the new CannesSeries television festival alongside MIP, was written by British actress and comedian Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and is set in Europe but was commissioned by BBC America and features Grey's Anatomy star Sandra Oh alongside British actress Jodie Comer (Doctor Foster). My Brilliant Friend, an adaptation of Elena Ferrante best-selling novels set in 1950s Naples, was produced in Italian by FremantleMedia’s Wildside and public broadcaster RAI together with HBO, and will be the first foreign-language series to go out on HBO's main U.S. schedule. 

Even all-American showrunner David Simon is going continental. The Wire and Treme creator announced a development deal at MIP with Spain’s Mediapro, co-producers of HBO's The Young Pope, for a planned, six-hour miniseries focused on members of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion, which came to Spain from the U.S. to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War. Titled A Dry Run, the series will be financed both out of Europe and the U.S.

“We're living in the golden age of television — I don't think anyone disputes that — but it's now on an international scale,” Coben told The Hollywood Reporter. “Years ago, in America, you would never see a show from Spain or Korea or Israel or wherever. But now with the internet and new technology in production, we are seeing a whole wave of creative forces we wouldn't have years ago.”

Chris Rice, co-president of Endeavor Content, which financed Killing Eve (and closed multiple deals on the series just ahead of MIP, including with HBO Europe and with the BBC in the U.K.) says his company is “leaning in” to stories that have a global feel, like Damien Chazelle's Netflix series The Eddy, which is set in a jazz club in modern-day Paris. “It's 50 percent in French, 30 percent Arabic and just 20 percent English-language,” says Rice.

The cosmopolitan touch can help on the sales end, too, by making a series feel both high-end and mainstream, depending on the local audience, and thus suitable for both a streaming or pay TV service stateside and a big mainstream network in Europe. For HBO subscribers, Italian-language My Brilliant Friend might seem niche and cutting-edge. For RAI, Italy's largest broadcaster, it's highly localized event TV.

The most ambitious drama series announced at MIP follows this game plan. Red Bull Media House and Germany's Beta Film are teaming up for The Net, a high-end drama series set in the world of international soccer and set up as five stand-alone but interconnected series, eight episodes each, and each based in a different country. The idea, says Beta Film's Moritz von Kruedener, is to get local, European broadcasters to back each individual series and then to package all five for a global streamer. “It's the only way to make the financing work on such a big project,” he says. “Your show has to be both local and global at the same time.”

A version of this story first appeared in the April 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.