Bollore creates movie studio

French conglom sees market opening

PARIS — Bollore Media, the media subsid of Gallic conglom the Bollore Group, is creating a movie production studio.

The shingle, announced by Yannick Bollore, CEO of Bollore Media, will produce theatrical films that can then feed BM’s free-to-air digital TV channel Direct 8.

Movies on Direct 8 already draw over 1 million viewers, Bollore added,

Budgets look to be modest, most around Euros2 million-Euros5 million ($2.7 million-$6.7 million). Bollore’s studio will co-produce with indie producers.

The pic production move is part-driven by the incremental cost of movies’ TV rights. “Films that cost Euros6,000 ($8,000) are now worth Euros80,000 ($107,000),” Bollore said.

Also, there’s a market opening.

France’s established private sector broadcast networks — read TF1 and M6 — “only want to air blockbusters. There’s no room on commercial nets for middle-budgeted movies,” Bollore added.

Though films may be modestly budgeted, Bollore Media can still impact French pic production. A core shareholder in ad firm Havas, with tentacles stretching into paper manufacturing, ports, banking and shipping, Bollore Group has deep pockets, last week announcing 2009 revenues of $8 billion and net profits of $160.8 million.

Bollore Media is already one of France’s fastest-growing film and TV forces.

On March 18, BM announced exclusive negotiations to buy DTT youth channel Virgin 17 from Lagardere.

Bollore’s strategy looks like the creation of a stable of channels.

“There’s consolidation in France’s DTT sector. Companies need to create small groups of channels. Even the smaller players are starting to follow that model,” said Christophe Cherblanc, at Societe Generale.

As they ramp up market share, DTT players need to move into original production to define channel brand and move into profits.

Many French DTT operators are still posting losses. Television revs at NRJ, which owns DTT net NRJ 12, rose 76% to $58.8 million in 2009, NRJ announced Friday. But TV operations still rang up a loss of $21.2 million.