France’s TV export biz bounced back in 2012, rising 14.8% to 127 million euros ($169 million) in spite of southern European markets’ collapse and crunched broadcaster’s budgets.

Figures were unveiled by the French national film board, CNC, at the annual Rendez-Vous mini-mart hosted by TV France Intl. that wraps today in Biarritz.

Animation was again the number one export, with sales rising 24.3% to $58.4 million. The CNC report cited the increase in worldwide sales to Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon as one of the key revenue drivers.

Boosted by the appetite of digital players and cable channels for French drama skeins, sales to the U.S. skyrocketed 76.7% to $13.1 million; overall revenues from North American deals  hiked 39.1% to $22.4 million. Drama sales doubled to $4.7 million. This upward trend is continuing in 2013. Recent high-profile U.S. deals include the Sundance Channel’s pickup of Canal Plus’ supernatural series “The Returned.”

In the U.K., as well, Gallic fiction fare proved particularly attractive, with sales of homegrown dramas going up 176.6%. The surge was bolstered by deals on a handful of Canal Plus shows: “Spiral” to BBC4; “Hotel Paradis: The House of Ill Repute” to Sky Arte; and “Braquo” and “The Returned” – both repped by Zodiak Rights — which sold to Fox and Channel 4, respectively.

“In a marketplace that is traditionally closed to foreign drama, the development of platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon now offer opportunities for French programs such as ‘Spiral,’ sold to Netflix, and  ‘Braquo,’ sold to Hulu,” said Benoit Danard, head of statistics and studies at the CNC. “The prices for these kinds of acquisitions can generate significant revenues for distributors.”

Per Mathieu Bejot, TVFI managing director, “The rise in French TV exports illustrate exporters’ capacity to focus on growth vectors such as emerging territories like Russia, Asia, Latin America and digital operators like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.”

Biz with South-East Asia proved buoyant in 2012, with sales going up 63.3% to $6.7 million. The launch of CCTV 9, a channel dedicated to documentary, helped open up the market for high-end docus on lifestyle topics like fashion and cuisine, even though it is still limited by quotas, said Bejot. In Japan, NHK accounted for the bulk of the $4.1 million in sales revenues, which progressed 42.8%.

Pre-sales, however, dropped by 9.5% to $51.7 million while foreign investments through co-production in French programs also fell 1.2% to $101 million.

Marking a nine-year record low, Southern European acquisitions, which traditionally drive French exports, fell significantly. Italian and Spanish pickups dropped 32% to $11.1 million and 50.2% to $5.3 million, respectively.

Bejot pointed out major Italian buyers like Rai and Mediaset had been hurt by the decline in advertising revenues and the audience fragmentation due to the spread of digital terrestrial channels. Indeed, Mediaset and La Sette cut back on their acquisitions of French fiction by 55.5% to $3.2 million.

Germany was the top territory for  French exports last year: Sales to new digital terrestrial and regional channels have been compensating plummeting acquisition budgets of  public broadcasters like ARD.

The TVFI Rendez-Vous gathered 269 buyers from 74 countries, repping over 184 acquisition companies; and over 100 sales agents from 64 shingles.