Lift propelled by increase in fiction, format deals

BIARRITZ, France — Income from the export of French programs rose 13% to €153.6 million ($196.2 million) last year, driven by an increase in fiction and format deals.

Sales of finished shows climbed 4.8% to $141.3 million, while pre-sales skyrocketed 40.9% to $55 million, according to figures unveiled by national film and TV board, the CNC, at the Rendez-Vous TV mart in Biarritz Tuesday.

Sales of completed fiction shows nosed up 4.5% to $25.7 million and fiction pre-sales climbed a massive 116.4% to $24.3 million, due in part to the flurry of higher-bracket deals inked on “Transporter,” the action series toplining Chris Vance based on the Luc Besson-produced film franchise.

Animation pre-sales also climbed significantly — up 54.6% to $22.4 million — driven by five animated series, notably Millimages’ “Corneil and Bernie,” Zodiak Kids’ “Rekkit Rabbit” and Studio 100′s “Maya the Bee.”

Gallic formats proved popular in 2011, rising 15.4% to bring in $25.5 million.

While game and entertainment shows dominate the format market, there’s a growing interest in short comedy titles such as “Vous les femmes” and scripted drama, notably the Canal Plus skeins “Braquo,” “Hard,” “Pigalle la nuit” and “Spiral,” which have been optioned for remakes, said Mathieu Bejot, managing director of TV France Intl., which runs the mart.

Animation and documentary are still the two most popular exports, accounting for 32% and 24.5% of all sales revenues.

Foreign investment in French TV production rose 29% to $155 million. That hike is explained by the increase in co-productions (up 23.3% to $99 million) and international pre-sales (up 50% to $30.9 million).

Countries in Western Europe and North America remain the biggest buyers and investors in French content.

Bejot said 2011 sales figures were bolstered by multi-platform players and the development of TV markets worldwide, notably in Asia, Central-Eastern Europe and Latin America.

The growth may not continue in 2012. Marc Nowak, managing topper of Zodiak Rights’ Paris office, said buyers have been more cautious since the beginning of the year.

“The market has contracted and broadcasters seem more inclined to use library product than buy fresh content.”

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