France: In ‘Housewives’ heaven, Canal Plus looking for next big hit

Mipcom 2005: Territory report

PARIS — In the run-up to Mipcom, French broadcasters’ wish lists are pretty straightforward: Bring on the next “Desperate Housewives,” s’il vous plait.

Disney skein has doubled paybox Canal Plus’ Thursday evening primetime ratings since it began airing at the beginning of September. Meanwhile, after summer success with “Lost,” TF1 is thrilled with the recent primetime perfs of “CSI: Miami,” which notched up 9.3 million viewers (a 38% audience share Sept. 21). Over on M6, “NCIS” has done wonders for Friday evening numbers.

But as they compete for what’s on the market, the usual balance of power has shifted among France’s top three terrestrial players — commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6, and pubcaster France Televisions — and that’s likely to affect business in the territory.

The pubcaster recently lost its deal with long-term supplier Warner Bros., which has inked a Gallic partnership with TF1 that will start in 2008. Impact of that change will take a while to be felt. In the meantime, flagship pubcaster France 2 still has the ratings-boosting “ER” and “Without a Trace” to lean on.

But more immediately, in August, the pubcaster acquired a new CEO, Patrick de Carolis, and his pronouncements about enhancing the group’s public-service function suggest that foreign imports are not a high priority. Fortunately for the group’s perplexed execs descending on Cannes, Mipcom is not a crucial market for dealmaking.

Most of the Gallic webs have plentiful stocks with which to feed their schedules in the year ahead. Canal Plus has season four of “24” and “The Shield,” and debuting skeins “Rome” and “Over There.”

TF1 also boasts a quantity of as yet unaired shows, including “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Boston Legal,” “CSI: New York” and two recent acquisitions, “Surface” and “Criminal Minds.”

M6 will air “Medium,” “Revelations,” “Numbers,” “The 4400” and the third of “Nip/Tuck.”

“In France competition is so stiff that negotiating takes place earlier and earlier in the life of a new show,” explains Sandra Ouaiss, Canal Plus’ head of series acquisition.

Complicating matters for Canal Plus and rival TPS is that the terrestrial webs don’t want to share goodies with payboxes. The TF1 view is that disappointing ratings for “24” were due to the show first airing on Canal Plus.

However, M6 has taken terrestrial rights to “Housewives” and will air it in a year’s time.

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