Warner Bros International Television (WBIT)has struck a long-term alliance with Europe Audiovisuel, the audiovisual division of defence, communications and media conglomerate Lagardere.

The two companies are to co-produce and co-finance English-language TV programmes for the international market, plus French-language TV drama aimed at the local market.

WBIT and Europe Audiovisuel will share French rights after the first set of runs on a French broadcaster. They will also share international rights including the US on the French programmes, which will be sold internationally outside of France by Warner Bros International Television Distribution.

Europe Audiovisuel will co-finance English-language programmes along with Warner. The outfit groups some of the most successful French TV production outfits, including GMT, a specialist in high-end TV drama such as Les Miserables, starring Gerard Depardieu, and Napoleon, starring Christian Clavier. Another partner is film production house Hachette Premiere, which has credits including The Horseman On The Roof and Quasimodo.

This is not a first attempt by a US studio to be involved in the production of programmes meant for the French market. Only the Walt Disney Co has done so successfully, although its Paris-based production outfits are mostly involved in creating branded children shows and animated programming.

Columbia International Television set up a French production company, Pegasus, some five years ago. But the venture failed to take off and has recently been taken over by French production and distribution group Expand.