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MIPCOM Hot Pick: Strange Empire

StrangeEmpireCastUnusually for Canadian public broadcaster CBC, two of its new dramas will debut to some fanfare at MIPCOM. Entertainment One is launching slave story The Book of Negroes, which is a coproduction with US network BET, while Modern Times Group-owned DRG will represent period piece Strange Empire.

“This is a breakout for CBC,” says DRG’s CEO Jeremy Fox. “It’s not unfair to say it used to do dramas that worked mainly for public service broadcasting, but this is HBO or AMC territory.”

The 13x60mins show follows three independent women from the 1860s fighting for survival in and around the wild boundary frontier that separated Canada from the US at the time. They are brought together after a series of brutal murders.

Strange Empire comes from renowned Canuck showrunner Laurie Finstad, whose previous hit, Durham County, is the only other Canadian drama for which DRG had previously pitched. Former CBS president Jeff Sagansky is an executive producer.

DRG landed the show thanks to senior VP Noel Hedges, who knew the production team. The producers needed a distributor to fill a funding gap early on in development, and DRG came on board. This model removes any chance of larger distributors such as Endemol or Shine International snapping up the rights at a later stage, explains Fox.

The exec expects sales to premium cable and public broadcasters. “We take the slightly off-centre stuff that might not play in primetime on a commercial channel; stuff that is off-beat, tough and critically acclaimed,” he says.

The show: Strange Empire
The producers: Janestown Productions, Johnson Production Group
The distributor: DRG
The broadcaster: CBC (Canada)
The concept: Three 19th century women from the US-Canadian border are thrust into danger by a series of brutal slayings