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Lagardere Group moves to Russia

Film org to launch networks on NTV Plus

France’s Lagardere Group, one of Europe’s deepest-pocketed TV congloms, is moving into Russia.

Later this year, Lagardere will launch two of its French children’s channel brands, Gulli and TiJi, on Russian digital satellite pay TV service NTV Plus.

TiJi, France’s top pre-school channel, will target youngsters as TiJi Russia. It will tap programs from AWOL, RDF Media (“Mister Maker,” “Big Barn Farm”), Mediatoon (“Petit ours brun,” “Canopus”), Taffy (“Dive Olly Dive”) and Europe Images (“Pere castor”), said Lagardere senior veep intl. Benoit Runel.

Launched June 2007 in France, kids-family service Gulli has rapidly consolidated, becoming the second-most-watched DTT channel in France this July.

Pay TV channel Gulli Russia will be reworked as a discovery docu/animation service for school-age kids, said Emmanuelle Guilbart, Lagardere Active head of programming.

Gulli Russia shows include “Flag Stories,” bought from AWOL, Target Ent.’s “Smokehouse Challenge,” Mediatoon’s “Inami,” Taffy doc “Insectoscope” and Europe Images docs such as “1001 Families.”

Several factors are at play in Lagardere’s Russian incursion.

With more than 20 dedicated kids pay TV services, double the number in the U.K., France’s children’s TV market is one of the most saturated in Europe, with little growth potential.

As its middle classes grow, “the children’s market is becoming increasingly important in Russia,” Guilbart said.

Through co-production, Lagardere has now accumulated a clutch of program assets — pre-school series “Manon,” seen at Mipcom Junior, and “T’choupi” — on which it’s taken rights to Russia.

Lagardere is working on other international channel launches, Guilbart said.

In March, Lagardere tapped Runel, former senior veep, acquisitions, at Fox Kids Europe, to lead the international expansion.