French Show About Versailles Hopes to Find American Audience

versailleshowFrance’s largest TV production of all time hopes to find a home in the United States and throughout the world.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Versailles, an ambitious television production chronicling the politics, mysteries, and intrigues of the 17th-century French court, is scouting for networks in the U.S. and elsewhere to carry the show. The series, an apparently raunchy, graphic depiction of King Louis XIV and his court, cost €30 million, or about $32 million USD, to make, making it France’s most expensive TV show ever.

“We have to make €10 million in sales internationally to get to break-even,” said Fabrice Larue, the CEO of the show’s production company Newen.

The 10 hour-long episodes come at a time when ambitious shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men have set a new standard for television. Viewers around the world expect more from their programming. As a result, Versailles, a joint French-Canadian production, seeks to compete with its American counterparts.

“We’re at the cusp of a new trend, a TV renaissance,” said Bruce Tuchman, President of AMC Global and Sundance Channel Global. “There is a lot of great stuff coming out of Europe.”

Versailles, however, is at a disadvantage — at least compared to American television. American studios simply have more money and viewers to work with than French studios, making gargantuan productions such as Game of Thrones and House of Cards feasible. An episode of Game of Thrones, for example, costs two to three times more than an episode of Versailles.

The producers of the show, however, are hopeful that its modern re-telling of the rise of France’s longest-serving absolutist king will draw attention from viewers abroad. In order to make a profit, the show must be picked up by more than 30 countries, which, much like the five-year production (and the palace itself), is no small feat, according to Larue.

The show has already been picked up by channels in Germany, Canada, and Australia. Larue hopes to pick up an American channel to gain serious viewership and promotion. The actors in the series speak English, which the producers hope will appeal to a subtitle-weary American audience. The show has been described by one producer as “the House of Cards of its time” — that is, 17th century Europe.

The real-life Versailles Palace itself is one of the most iconic and visited destinations in Paris. It draws in approximately six million visitors every year — roughly 30% of France’s population in 1682, when Louis XIV moved his court from Paris to the palace.

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