This is the third in a series of posts by the MIPTV News team, summarising the highlights of an action-packed week in Cannes.
Naming France as this year’s Country Of Honour chimed perfectly with a dramatic increase in the global presence of French-made content. France has been a prominent player in the content business for many years, especially in feature films, but since TV became the place where great writers and acting talent want to be, the country has moved up a gear to develop into a truly global player drama, factual and animation.
The proof lies in the fact that the value of France’s exports to the global content market has increased every year since 2008. And, despite a high concentration of shows coming from the top five channels, it is a dynamic and creative market that participates in a large number of co-productions. Of the €205.2m-worth international programmes sales in 2017, more than a quarter came from animation, but fiction is the fastest growing sector. “In French animation, our savoir-faire is thanks to our training system, the CNC, and tax credits,” said Roch Lener of Millimages. Yet building a strong IP in France is not without its problems, he added: “It’s harder for us because French broadcasters want shows that work for a wide demographic.”
MIPTV highlighted French animation talent to watch including My Dear Gnome. Anne de Galard and Eric Garnet of Go-N Productions, known for Simon, and Zip Zip, introduced their latest project, a co-production with Paris-based Eddy. “We loved Eddy’s short film about a ceramic gnome and a plastic deer,” said de Galard. Emmanuele Petry Sirvin of Dandelooo gave a sneak peek of a new project, book adaptation The Upside Down River; and Samuel Kaminka of Samka Productions, maker of Marsupilami, is working on a new hybrid project with a US studio he cannot yet name.
Drama has long been one of France’s traditional strengths, especially family comedy-dramas and police procedurals — perfectly combined in the enduring international hit Candice Renoir, which Newen Distribution has so far sold to 82 countries. Elephant International’s Torn was a dark take on the murder mystery featuring a love triangle between a cop, his wife and her former lover, who all get drawn into a murder investigation. Also highlighted at MIPTV’s extensive French-focused conference programme were enigmatic shows including Apnea from Lagardere Studios Distribution, starring Laetitia Casta as a Corsican serial killer, and Beyond The Walls, a mini-series about a haunted house from Lincoln TV. Like many French producers these days, the company is engaged in a co-production, Mirages, about a married woman who finds out her former lover did not die in the 2004 tsunami as she thought. Commenting on how local business is evolving, Lagardere’s Emmanuelle Bouilhaguet said: “Now that the TV business is getting closer to the film business, we need to have strong auteur voices. And as a distributor we’re coming in earlier, so we’re discussing authors more, especially in co-productions.”
Stephane Courbit, Marco Bassetti, and Francois de Brugada of France-based Banijay Group outlined the strategic and creative ambitions of the production and distribution powerhouse in their Game Changers keynote. Chairman of Banijay, Courbit, began as an independent producer before forming Endemol France in 1998. But while he later created Banijay Group, the world’s largest independent production and distribution company with around €1bn annual revenue. He has eschewed a top-down bureaucratic approach — underlying the group’s fast-expanding production of quality scripted and format content. The approach has paid off, with CEO of Banijay France, De Brugada, noting that 35 million people in France watch a Banijay show every week.
At her keynote, CEO of France Televisions Delphine Ernotte Cunci talked about the state broadcaster’s future. “We know we need to invest to attract a younger audience, and we are also well aware that some of the shows we produce will be for online consumption only.” Overall France Televisions is looking at the future as an opportunity to be at the centre of French creative excellence. “We are committed to spending €420m per year on factual, drama and animation projects, and this will also include working with fellow European public broadcasters including ZDF and RAI. We are also keen to forge new alliances such as the SVOD platform Salto with TF1 and M6. Between the three of us, we produce around 80% of France’s TV content, so we’re optimistic about the project,” she said.
The Game Changers keynote from ARTE director general Regine Hatchondo provided a glimpse into the changing priorities of one of Europe’s most unique channel operations, with Hatchondo admitting that it faces the issues produced by an ageing audience that doesn’t necessarily want to embrace online viewing. “We have strong brand recognition, but the average age of our linear audience is 60 years old. Our online audience is aged 30-35, but they are only 20% of our viewers at the moment, so our challenge is to develop online viewing across the whole of Europe,” she said. “We are looking to forge new kinds of shows, and new ways of writing them, all the while maintaining independence, quality and defending the brand.”
TF1 CEO Gilles Pelisson used his keynote to explain that a strong emphasis on content has been the secret of the French broadcaster’s resilience in the ratings. With TF1’s market share in excess of 20%, Pelisson said: “We have added more personality to our portfolio of channels and taken bets on key shows and talent. That has generated profits we can reinvest in content — so it becomes a virtuous cycle.” Scripted series have been a big focus, with around €160m per year spent on French-produced titles. Recent highlights have included Pour Sarah, La Part Du Soupcon and Le Bazar de la Charite, which has been licensed on to Netflix.
Canal+ chairman and CEO Maxime Saada provided MIPTV delegates with a wide-ranging assessment of his company’s ambitions during his keynote. On the channel and platform front, he said the company currently has 16.2m subscribers across 23 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Most of these are in French-speaking territories, but Saada is targeting growth in non-Francophone markets such as Ethiopia. On the content side, he discussed the international strength of production arm Studiocanal in both film and television. “Half of our turnover comes from outside France and that can get as high as 70-80% in some years,” he said.
The Game Changers keynote featuring Pascal Breton, founder and CEO of Federation Entertainment alongside Patrick Wachsburger, founder and CEO of Picture Perfect Entertainment, saw the duo talking about their new joint-venture Picture Perfect Federation. For both men, it was a simple process. “I had known Pascal for years and have huge admiration for what he and Federation Entertainment have achieved, so I asked him if he was interested in working with me,” Wachsburger said. Breton agreed: “For me, it was a no-brainer because at Federation we always aim to work with friends.” Picture Perfect Federation has already announced that two books by Allison Pataki about Empress Elisabeth of Austria, The Accidental Empress and Sisi: Empress On Her Own, are being developed for TV. During the keynote, they also announced that the company has acquired rights to the bestseller Ramses by Christian Jacq.