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NATPE Hot Pick: Velvet

Period drama is the most in-vogue form of scripted programming in the world right now, with Downton Abbey going from strength to strength and Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire among the leading shows on US cable.

Spain’s most notable addition to the growing list of period-set dramas was Grand Hotel, an Antena 3 series from bambu producciones that Germany’s Beta Films continues to shop successfully around the world. It was hailed as ‘the Spanish Downton‘ in some quarters of the press and Beta will be hoping bambu and Antena’s latest series will have the same impact at NATPE.

Velvet is set in 1958 in the Velvet Fashion Mall and is a love story that explores the forbidden affair between Alberto, a young man destined to inherit the mall from his father, and Ana, a poor dressmaker.

Beta’s managing director Eric Welbers says the tone is “Cinderella meets Mad Men“.

The German company is banking on the notion that, though hard hitting series such as Breaking Bad and House of Cards have dominated headlines internationally, “the main television audience out there is still interested in romantic stories”. “With the success of those [shows], you can forget that those big audiences also want entertainment close to the heart. Velvet is a straightforward love story and it’s beautiful,” adds Welbers.

Latin buyers might just as easily order Velvet as a telenovela format or a straight acquisition, Welbers predicts. “It’s glossy with high production values and very modern storytelling with great actors and music. It’s taking telenovela and creating a big, horizontal love story,” he adds.

One issue for the finished tape is the unusual 70-minute run time. Welbers accepts some broadcasters may struggle with that format and points to Beta’s track record in reworking shows to fit other slots. “We might end up with an 18x50mins version,” he confirms. “It’s too early to say but we did the same for Grand Hotel. With horizontal shows like Velvet and [another Beta-sold Spanish drama] Alatriste we were involved at script stage so we can build in enough exit and entry points to do that.”

The show: Velvet
The distributor: Beta Film
The producers: bambu producciones, Beta Film
The broadcaster: Antena 3 (Spain)
The concept: A love story set in a high-end fashion store in 1958 Spain, from the team behind Grand Hotel