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Toons star at French TV showcase

Export sales second only to Britain

BIARRITZ, France The rainstorms at last week’s Gallic TV showcase could have served as a metaphor for forces buffeting France’s TV export industry: contracting ad revenues in many markets, and ever-tighter broadcaster budgets as webs lose share to DTT, satellite and cable.

Given that, French TV exports are doing well to hold on to their reputation in Europe as second in sales only to Britain’s.

Overall, Gallic international TV sales edged up 3.3% to, E118.8 million ($174.6 million) in 2007, TV France Intl. CEO Mathieu Bejot announced Sept. 10 atIntl. Rendez-Vous, which ran Sept. 8-12 in Biarritz.

Bulwarking results, doc sales rose 6% to $44.4 million.

“People are increasingly interested in understanding the world,” says 10 Francs founder Guy Knafo, who was tubthumping astronomy guide “Journey Into Space” and docu special “Cultivating the Desert,” about Dubai’s current culture drive.

“Sales are up thanks to growing middle-classes in the Middle East, Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe,” says Pascal Diot, prexy of distrib Idee Pascal Laurent.

But revenues are increasing more slowly than the number of deals sellers make to reach those figures,” Bejot says.

Despite docus’ rally, it was animation and fiction that held centerstage at the Rendez-Vous.

Among toon fare, Xilam unveiled short-format “Mr. Baby,” about a toddler who talks like a 50-year-old smartass; and, most memorably, first episode excerpts from the big-budget “Rahan,” a thuddingly scored comedic fantasy-adventure series set in 35,000 B.C. about a prehistoric peacenik who attempts to calm cavemen.

Taffy Ent. also sparked interest with “108 Hero,” the Taffy-Cartoon Network co-production featuring techno-empowered animals threatening hapless humans.

Through Sept. 9, the most-seen shows at the Rendez-Vous videotheque were religious cult thriller “Bloody Mountains,” and twentysomething drama “Paris Stories,” both Marathon Intl. dramas.

Also sparking good buzz were AB Intl. Distribution’s “Mafiosa,” and the second seasons of both FTD’s “Clara Sheller” — think “Sex in the City” in Paris — and 2001 Audiovisuel’s “Spiral,” a harder-edged upscale cop drama, produced for Canal Plus. “Spiral” has sold 26 territories to date, says 2001’s managing director Laetitia Recayte.

In early Rendez-Vous trading, Java sold docus “Secret Story: The Gulag Archipelago” and “Manila’s Lost Children” to Swedish pubcaster SvT. Java’s “Johannesburg: The Most Dangerous City” was bought by Belgium’s VRT and RTBF.

One Rendez-Vous highlight was the first episode of FTD’s “Apocalypse: World War 2,” consisting of stock footage — restored, sometimes colorized and rendered in HD — which showed that war in a stunning, never-before-seen graphic immediacy.

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