Show of the week: Prisoners of War

Prisoners of War is one of the most influential scripted formats of past few years. The show, which launched in Israel on Keshet-operated Channel 2 in 2010, is best known under its US remake guise, the Claire Danes-fronted Homeland.

The original series follows two Israeli soldiers released from captivity in Lebanon for nearly two decades. A third captive does not make it home alive and the drama lies in the mystery of where the allegiances of these men now lie. It is among the top rated scripted shows ever in Israel, setting records with both season one and 2012’s season two.

Thanks in a large part of Howard Gordon’s US remake for Fox, which has sold around the world to massive critical acclaim, Prisoners of War (originally titled Hatufim) has seen a surge in sales in the finished version, with the likes of US VOD platform Hulu, Germany’s Universal Pictures, the UK’s Sky Arts, Australia’s SBS, Canada’s Super Channel and Norwegian pubcaster NRK all licensing it locally.

“Everyone likes the smell of success and on the back of [Homeland] it’s true, we sell more of the format worldwide,” admits Keshet International managing director Alon Shtruzman.

However, he notes the series has performed well in its own right in territories such as the UK, where season two soon launches on Sky Arts, and Australia, drumming up a second stream of interest.

But though the original has sold well, Keshet International, the global arm of the Keshet Media Group, views the programme primarily as a format. “We do look at it as a format as there is some kind of core idea that’s easily translated to different countries. It’s an amazing tale of conflict in so many ways,” says Shtruzman.

“We’re obviously looking to produce local versions of the original,” he continues. “For us, it is a conflict format, which means it is a story that can be told in every country that has conflict [and] perhaps it’s not for Switzerland or Holland. It’s probably irrelevant there but most countries have some kind of conflict.”

Territories preparing their own remakes include Russia, where Endemol-backed Weit Media is producing a version for a local broadcaster; Latin America, where Florida-based Pomodoro Stories has acquired local rights for Mexico and Colombia; and Turkey, where Medyapim has optioned rights. Shtruzman also says there are advanced talks with broadcasters and production companies over an Asian remake and that an announcement will follow “soon”.

The company will also target a local version in Australia, where Keshet International has just launched a joint venture with David Haslingden’s new production vehicle. A key part of that plan is localising Keshet formats for the Australian market, and Shtruzman will be in the country this week on a scouting mission. “You’ll see more and more adaptations of Prisoners of War,” adds Shtruzman.

Keshet International is flexible with the finished tapes of these remakes – in the US 20th Century Fox Television Distribution sells the Fox 21-produced series.  “The finished tape situation varies,” confirms Shtruzman. “Part of the way for production companies to recoup costs is to distribute the programme but in the UK we have some new commissions that we hold the rights to. There’s no specific template. We try to do good deals and motivate our partners, while retaining some rights.”


The show: Prisoners of War

The producer: Tender Productions

The distributor: Keshet International

The broadcasters (finished version): Channel 2 (Israel), Hulu, Sky Arts, NRK, Super Channel (Canada), iTunes Canada, Universal Pictures Germany, SBS, Arte, YLE

Format sales: Medyapim (Turkey), Weit Media (Russia), Colombia and Mexican partners TBC

Concept: A pair of war veterans return to Israel after 17 years in captivity but struggle to readjust to freedom

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