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L.A. Screenings: France

Crime keeps feeding hungry Gallic auds

PARIS — Competition will be fierce between Gallic broadcasters at the L.A. Screenings this go-round as acquisition execs try to secure the latest hot American shows.

Aired in primetime, “CSI: Miami” and “CSI: NY” have been notching up stellar ratings for TF1. “Miami” drew 9.2 million viewers (34% audience share) for the March 22 episode while “NY” registered 8 million viewers (36% share) on April 1.

“French people love crimeshows right now,” says TF1 acquisitions topper Laurent Storch. “It’s a big trend across all the networks.”

Gallic broadcasters have no trouble filling their schedules. Stockpiling series is becoming more frequent, partly because of the webs’ volume deals with the majors. Also, they would rather nab whatever’s hot on the market, rather than wait until somebody else grabs it.

U.S. shows TF1 has ready and waiting for slots include “Criminal Minds,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “Boston Legal” and “Ghost Whisperer.”

Further complicating the French scramble for shows is hostility among terrestrial webs to having skeins bow first on pay TV.

Although “24” was a hit for paybox Canal Plus, when it aired later on TF1 it drew less spectacular auds, prompting terrestrial folk to conclude its pay TV airing had deflated some of the show’s fizz.

“Publicity in the newspapers is everything, and when a show has already been talked about a lot, it doesn’t get the same media attention a second time around,” says a terrestrial programming exec.

However, the latenight slot for “24” probably kept it from reaching as wide an audience as the commercial web would have liked.

Sandra Ouaiss, head of foreign series acquisitions at Canal Plus, is hoping “Desperate Housewives,” due to bow on M6 next week, will set a more positive example.

“We contributed to the buzz in France around ‘Desperate Housewives,’ which is being written about in the papers all the time,” Ouaiss says. “The fact that it was shown first on Canal Plus created a certain anticipation that M6 will profit from. After all, only 1 million people saw it on Canal Plus. There are another 59 million who didn’t.”

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