French TV Benefits From Strong Local Shows, International Co-Productions

The Returned French TV

Overseas sales of French programs have increased by 30% in three years

France has always considered itself to be a mecca of world cinema, while tending to disdain its homegrown television fiction. But that has changed as the country forges a reputation for edgy miniseries. In fact, on the business side, international TV fiction sales rose 30% between 2011 and 2013.

The main driver of the change is not international coin, but the need to maintain domestic auds. “French viewers are used to watching U.S. shows,” says Laetitia Recayte, CEO at Newen Distribution. “French TV fiction has to draw closer to U.S. models. Canal Plus paved the way, with shows like ‘Spiral,’ but now all French broadcasters are following suit.”

Successful genres include noirish crime dramas and mystery thrillers. One example is Haut et Court’s supernatural thriller “The Returned,” which whetted Blighty appetites for similar fare.

Newen is now repping mystery thriller “Witnesses,” from network France 2, and already has bids from the U.K.’s three main broadcasters.

“The U.K. used to be an impossible territory, but now all networks are competing for a French show,” Recayte says.

Ambitious international co-prods mixing U.S. and French showrunners is the other route to international success. One example: the $34 million French-Canadian co-production “Versailles,” penned by Simon Mirren (“Without a Trace”) and David Wolstencroft (“Spooks”).

But results for some French-backed English-language international co-productions have also been deceptive. TF1’s Jean Reno starrer “Jo” underperformed in France after being ravaged by French critics and its second season was cancelled. EuropaCorp’s French-American series “Taxi Brooklyn,” had low ratings on TF1 in April-May and trended downward on NBC in the U.S.

“International co-productions are rarer phenomena with unpredictable results,” says TV France Intl. exec director Mathieu Bejot. “The main trend is for more French-language local drama.”

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  1. cookiecan says:

    a great title for a new jean reno copshow truecriminals a mix between the crimson rivers empires of the wolves and ronin the copshow didn,t do good in france but did great in germany and italy could be picked but another broadcaster great copshow jean reno is excellent in this copshow

  2. liverbush daz says:

    the show did great in france the Wikipedia page says that the show had great rating the producers should make a second season with jean reno and the lead cast and change all the rest new frontrunner like the transporter serie much better now new directors it,s a great copshow

    • Rena Moretti says:

      It goes to show one should not trust wikipedia entries too much.

      I actually checked out its ratings. The premiere did OK (that’s probably what wikipedia used as a source) and then the ratings plunged because the show was horrible (the extremely poor dubbing was blamed but I think the atrociously bad directing was really to blame!)

      I don’t know that many people who’ve bothered to watch it but I can say you’re the first one to claim liking it.

  3. Rena Moretti says:

    It really didn’t do OK in France. If it had, they’d probably have done more. The ratings were very low and collapsed after the first episode, which I found literally unwatchable as it was yet another mindless “shakycam” effort.

  4. Rena Moretti says:

    You read articles like this one and yet in reality the French networks are retrenching, slashing budgets and firing employees…

    All the projects you mentioned had been in the works for five years or so… Where are the new projects if they’re doing so great (granted you did mention the horrible show that was Jo!)

    It’d be great to have more in-depth coverage and less hype from the people trying to sell the shows!

  5. Rena Moretti says:

    To be fair, I don’t think I ever said he was the problem. The show was bad in spite of him.

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