Q&A: France Televisions’ Boss Remy Pflimlin Discusses Global Strategy

TOULOUSE, France– While at Cartoon Forum, the animation co-production mini-mart set in Toulouse, Variety interviewed Remy Pflimlin, the man running the show at France Television, Gaul’s biggest animation backer and Europe’s top toon programer. One week after the launch of Netflix in France, Pflimlin, who’s been on the job for over four years, goes over the pubcaster’s shifting strategy, financial investment and editorial mandate for animation content.

France Televisions injects 29 million Euros ($37 million) per year into animated programs. Why do you invest so much in animation?

Kids programming is one of the editorial mandates of France Televisions. Children watch a lot of TV and we see them as future citizens, not just as future consumers. Our ambition is to strengthen our role as prime purveyor of qualitative animated programs for young audiences — one which parents can trust.

As public broadcaster, have a responsibility: develop a qualitative offer which helps young people become citizens, promotes values of civism, equality, integration, which contributes to the battle against discrimination and stereotypes.

This is why we program more than 5000 hours of animation on our channels each year — France 3, France 5 et since March also on France 4 from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. These channels attract considerable audiences.

What are the artistic and economic motivations behind this commitment towards animation?

Artistically, what matters to us is the quality and diversity of the programs we choose, which bring out the values that we want to share with young audiences. Economically, our investments (via co-financing) participate in the dynamism of the French and European animation industry.

More than two-third of our programs are exclusive. We’re France’s first backer of animation in France and Europe’s n.1 programmer. We’re renewing and strengthening this commitment in spite of the economic context, which is the most challenging that public broadcasters have ever experienced. France Televisions invests nearly 30 million euros per year in animation production, and covers 50% of the annual commissions of animated programs, which makes France Televisins not only France’s top investor in animation but also Europe’s. We recently signed a new deal with all French animation professionals which ensures a historically high level of investment.

We also aims to get involved in productions at a very early stage in order to detect and develop ambitious projects that stand out. Our role is to offer young audiences heroes who can entertain them, who speak, call them out, help them understand things, grow up.

France Televisions is presenting its first crossover between two animation properties, “The Jungle Bunch” and “The Owl,” here at Cartoon Forum. How does this project fit into the group’s strategy in terms of innovation? Over the last two years, France Televisions’ budget dedicated to digital has increased from $25 million to over $63 million.

That illustrates more than anything our role in accompanying and stimulating the dynamism of animation production. It stems from a truly successful collaboration between our commissioning editors and producers who know how to bring the good projects.

The role of our editorial teams is to continue invating but also make sure our offer is diverse and rich enough. That’s accomplished through our policy to break format patterns, develop more event-driven productions, shorter ones but more audacious and also more daring. For instance last season we launched two original creations that are not formatted: “The Jungle Bunch” and “The Owl.” Both shows proved highly successful in international markets even though they were created by two young studios, TAT Productions (for “The Jungle Bunch”) and Studio Hari (“The Owl”). And today we’re blending them to create a unique show.

How is the launch of Netflix in France impacting your strategy regarding animation?  

We must maintain our status as prime animation purveyor for all kids, teenagers in France, and a space that parents can trust at any time and on every screen, while becoming the TV reference of the generation Z, the rising generation. We strive to provide French youth with content that carries values and we strive to stay grounded and coherent in a fragmented digital world. This year our ambition is to develop an offer that’s revelant to today’s viewing habits.

Young people are brought up with the digital, they immediately and intuitively use all its tools. It’s indispensable to accompany them in their practices and usages. To fulfill that ambition, we must think of ourselves as being a content eco-system – rather than a broadcaster — built around two brands: Zouzous (dedicated to programs for kids aged 3 to 5) and Ludo. These two brands will be developed across all linear screens and digitial platforms. Zouzous will be brought to France 5 and France 4  on tablets, connected TV, game consoles and computers.

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