MIPTV: TV's Titanic Mania Hits on Eve of 100th Anniversary

A century after the great cruise ship disaster, a slew of themed projects bowing at the Cannes global market show that interest in the tragedy goes on (and on).

This story first appeared in the April 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The Titanic is the disaster that keeps on giving. A century after the sinking of the luxury ocean liner, a flood of Titanic-themed series, documentaries and TV specials are coming to port -- stopping off at the international MIP-TV market in Cannes before coming to a screen near you.

Most retell the familiar tragedy in the North Atlantic (as does James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster feature, which is getting a global 3D rerelease April 4). But the craze for all things Titanic has inspired outliers as well. In Italy, there are several planned film and TV dramas based on a more recent naval disaster -- the capsizing, in January, of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia. While none of these is past the planning stage, all are expected to play up similarities between the Titanic and the 2012 disaster. In addition to their demises happening almost exactly 100 years apart, both vessels were, at the time, the largest passenger ships ever to sink.

Drawing most of the attention are two mega-budget Titanic TV series set to screen at MIP: the four-hour Titanic from Britain's ITV and written by Emmy-winning Downton Abbey scribe Julian Fellowes, and the 12-hour Titanic: Blood and Steel, which stars Chris Noth and Neve Campbell and recounts the 15-year struggle to build the luxury liner.

Fellowes' Titanic, being sold by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, will be first to set sail, with networks worldwide timing the series' bow as close as possible to April 15, the 100th anniversary of the calamity. Fellowes sees his series as a historical corrective to Cameron's film. "There's a bit of setting the record straight," he said in an interview with Britain's Radio Times.

There's no doubt the series will benefit from the blitz surrounding the rerelease of Cameron's Titanic as channels stock time slots with similarly themed programming. National Geographic is airing three Titanic docs in early April, including Titanic: The Final Word, featuring Cameron himself.

Jonas Bauer, who is selling Blood and Steel for Tandem Communications, says Titanic hype won't wane. "It's a big brand," he says, noting that Canada's CBC has elected to air his company's series in the fall, well after the 100th anniversary. "There'll be enough hoopla to last the whole year."