Gauls toast programs sales, but TV exports off

PARIS — French TV exports fell 0.7% to E244 million ($306.2 million) in 2004, hit by the weak dollar and declining co-production, according to figures to be published today.

Program sales saw a more upbeat 3.7% rise to $135.7 million, the first increase in three years, while pre-sales rose 24.5% to $41.1 million.

Italy overtook Germany to become French TV production’s biggest foreign client.

TV France Intl., which promotes foreign sales of Gallic TV programs, talked up the figures as a turning point for the French TV biz, struggling since exports slumped from a high of $420.7 million in 2001 to $288.5 the following year.

Org is currently hosting its annual Rendezvous with foreign buyers in St. Tropez.

“After three very difficult years, the increase in program sales is a positive sign that the industry is recovering,” TVFI topper Mathieu Bejot said.

Declining co-production was a factor of changes in Gallic aid measures along with tax breaks inciting French producers to stay on home soil, Bejot said, as well as lower investment from France’s traditional co-production partners, Germany and Canada.

“We aren’t worried about co-productions falling, as they are bound to mechanically with the measures that have been taken,” Bejot said. “What is more significant is that sales are up.”

According to TVFI, the weakness of the dollar against the Euro affected 30%-35% of export business, contributing a 3% shortfall.

Business varied significantly across genres. Docus and animation were the main vehicles of growth, with program sales up 10% and 3.4% respectively. Animation remained out in front as the single biggest seller, repping 36.5% of program sales abroad.

Overall sales to the U.S. fell 6%, but animation spectacularly bucked that trend, with sales increasing 52.4% to $13.6 million following the success on U.S. channels of shows such as “Totally Spies” and “Code Lyoko.”

Fiction, though, was in poor shape with sales down 11.1%. TVFI blamed the disappointing figure on a lack of volume and exportable formats. Most popular French series are produced at the rate of a handful of episodes a year and in 90-minute format, making them a hard sell internationally.

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