Gallic TV coming into the clear

ST. TROPEZ — French TV exports rose 3.8% last year as the Gallic TV biz began to pull itself out of the hole that was 2002.

While sales of finished product dropped 1.7% in 2003 to E104.3 million ($125.8 million), co-productions and pre-sales rose 8.6 % to $162 million, according to figures released by TV France Intl., which promotes Gallic TV exports, at its annual Rendevous last week. The figures for 2003 come a year after the industry reported a 16.1% plunge in sales and a 40.6% dive in pre-sales and co-prods. At the time, analysts predicted it would take two years for exports to recover from the hit.

“We’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Mathieu Bejot, director of TV France Intl. “There’s a feeling that business is recovering and that 2004 should be better.”

He said the last trimester of 2003 saw an uptick, particularly in pre-sales. “The rise is an indicator of the dynamism of the market. It’s a good sign.”

Animation continued to be the biggest seller, followed by documentary, with fiction coming in third.

The biggest hike in sales was seen in North America, where exports jumped 5.7% to $18 million, with the U.S. leading the charge. Exports to the U.S. rose from $2.6 million in 2002 to $7.3 million last year. Animation and documentary led the pack in terms of genre, as Gallic fiction remains a tough sell in North America.

One lone American buyer, Elizabeth Sheldon, director of acquisitions and co-productions for educational producer/distrib Schlessinger Media, showed up at the Rendezvous. TV France put this down to the fact that its annual showcase in New York made it unnecessary for American execs to make the trip.

“I’m looking to secure one series, if not two or three,” says Sheldon. “If I didn’t find programs, I wouldn’t come back.”

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