×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Execs get an Eiffel at screenings

U.S., U.K., India among participants buying Gallic TV prod'ns

ST TROPEZ, France — Fallen Vivendi-Universal topper Jean-Marie Messier’s infamous cry that “the French cultural exception is dead” has fallen on deaf ears judging from the frenzy at this year’s French TV Screenings, which wrapped Sept. 13.If the screenings are any indication, Gaul is doing more than ever to support its cultural products.

TV France Intl., the state-funded body which promotes program exports, picked up the tab to fly 160 buyers from 110 television stations around the globe to St. Tropez in the south of France to meet 51 local TV production companies and see over 700 programs.

And it was money well spent as hundreds of hours of French programs were snapped up.

“The buyers are here to buy French,” notes Thorunn Anspach, managing director of Marathon Intl., whose animated skein, “Totally Spies” is a hit in the U.S. on ABC Family. “You’ve got a captive audience in a great atmosphere compared to Mipcom where everyone is dispersed.”

According to several buyers, coming to St. Tropez means having one less territory to deal with at Mipcom.

U.S. participants included Discovery and WNET; Channel 4 and its Welsh subsidiary S4C from the U.K.; and other buyers from as far as Hong Kong, India, Brazil and Qatar, the base of screenings habitue Al Jazeera Satellite Channel, a buyer with very deep pockets.

“We’ll buy over 200 hours here,” says Tareq Zuitar, buyer for the Arab satcaster. “Al Jazeera is launching a documentary channel in June, so we’re buying lots of French, English and American current affairs, political and social documentaries.”

Al Jazeera taste ranges from a one-hour doc, “Up Close and Personal: Afghanistan,” produced by Doc en Stock, to wildlife series, economic and travel programs and even a doc on French cheese production.

The station recently co-produced “The Spiral of Martyrdom,” about the lives of three of the Sept. 11 terrorists, with French company Sunset.

Docs were hot ticket items at the screenings. The French are increasingly savvy about gearing their docs for international consumption. Despite the general economic slowdown, French documentary sales remained stable in 2001, at $27.8 million.

“It’s the high-end docs that sell internationally,” notes Mathieu Bejot, TVFI’s managing director.

These include docs such as MK2’s “Fellini: I am a Great Liar,” which was bought by First Look Pictures and opens theatrically in the U.S. in November and “Bejart into the Light,” which was part of this year’s official Venice Film Fest selection. Both had budgets of over $1 million.

“There are changes in the market place,” notes Discovery’s Marian Williams. “The French are looking at subjects from an international angle, even when telling true French stories,” such as a doc about French astronaut turned science minister, Claudie Haignere.

Animation sales were also swift. Cartoons topped the list of exported French fare for the sixth year in 2001, banking $56 million, and garnering 44.6% of foreign sales. Sales of French cartoons doubled in North America, with that market copping 12% of all French animation shows sold.

“French animation has a very special spirit,” opines Veillon. “It’s witty, more educational, very stylish and there are great French animation creators.”

But while docs, cartoons, and catalog films were brisk sellers at the screenings, sales of made-for-TV fiction were flat.

According to Olivier Sapaut, CEO of TF1 Intl., French fiction is a hard sell due to its traditional 90-minute format, though many of the new big-budget miniseries — such as TF1’s “Dangerous Liaisons” and France 2’s “Napoleon” — are now geared for multiple 52-minutes timeslots.

French fiction sales also continued to take a hit due to increases in local fiction production elsewhere. “There are fewer primetime slots to fill with prestige fiction shows,” notes Bejot.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • ALL RISE -- A drama that

    TV Review: 'All Rise' Starring Simone Missick

    Finding a new way to do a legal procedural is such a difficult prospect at this point that it would be hard to blame TV for giving up entirely and just going on autopilot. “All Rise,” however, both indulges the basics of the genre and finds some refreshing ways to twist them into slightly new, [...]

  • An Emmy statue stands outside the

    Expect High Heat and Traffic for Emmys Sunday

    If you work in TV, are a fan of TV, or are in fact a TV yourself, the 71st Primetime Emmys promise to be a treat. Television’s biggest awards show takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday night, with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars set to appear as the entertainment community honors the best of [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun

    Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun Rights

    Viacom has sealed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for the cable rights to “Seinfeld” starting in October 2021. The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021. “Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers

    Samsung Makes Bid to Keep Viewers From Skipping Fox Ad Breaks

    Fox is hoping to knit together the seconds-long divide between a TV program and the commercials that support it. During ad breaks for a few football broadcasts, tomorrow’s run of the Emmys and Wednesday’s season premiere of “The Masked Singer,” the network will kick off ad sessions with special show promos that display artistic renderings [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content