International sales of French TV programs reached an all-time record in 2013, rising 8% to €137 million ($176 million).

The study, conducted by the CNC, France’s national film and TV board, and TV France Intl., the association of French TV program exporters, was unveiled at the Rendez-Vous conference in Biarritz that wraps tomorrow.

French fiction titles like Haut et Court’s “The Returned” (pictured above) and Capa Drama’s “Braquo” (both sold by Zodiak Rights), as well as such high-profile miniseries as EuropaCorp’s “The Passenger” (reppped by Francetv Distribution) proved hot sells in 2013 —  particularly in Western Europe, once again the leading market for Gallic product. Overall, deals on homegrown fiction rose 14.1% to €26 million ($33.5 million).

The spike in sales of French fiction titles is linked to the development of VOD platforms in territories like the U.S., U.K. and Asia that are traditionally closed off to non-English-language skeins.

Format sales brought $28 million, penetrating markets like the U.K., Spain and Italy that have strong local production. Among last year’s popular formats were “Slam,” which Can’t Stop Media sold to Turkish channel TRT, and “Hold on to Your Seat,” picked up for Japan and Germany. North America, Belgium and Scandinavia were the prime destinations for French formats.

In the States, sales of Gallic titles remained at a high level with $20.6 million. Documentary deals accounted for nearly a third of all French exports. U.S. broadcasters are still mostly in the market for upscale historical documentaries like “Apocalypse WWI,” a Discovery pickup.

Canadian deals climbed 23.2% to $10.3 million, led by format and fiction sales, such as Lagardere Entertainment’s “Justice Street” and “Braquo.”

In the U.K., however, sales of French programs fell 22% to $8.3 million, even if the success of Gallic drama titles like “The Returned” showed British auds’ growing appetite for foreign-language drama.

“The U.K. market still has a dynamic video market and offers more and more opportunities for lucrative VOD deals,” per Benoit Danard, head of statistics at the CNC.

Germany was last year’s biggest buyer of French programs. Sales to German-speaking regions went up 37.8% to $20.6 million. Italy was also a strong market as sales rose 20% to $13 million. Italy’s RAI started buying more French programs, particularly toon series such as Xilam’s “What’s the Big idea?” and Newen Distribution’s “The Mysterious Cities of Gold.”

Gallic animation programs also proved popular in Spain where they accounted for nearly half of all French exports’ biz in that market.

Sales to Southeast Asia also went up, bolstered by deals with True Vision Group in Thailand, Now TV in Hong Kong, PTS in Taiwan and AXN in South Korea. “In Southeast Asia, the most dynamic buyers are DTT channels looking for an alternative to U.S. programs,” per Mathieu Bejot, TVFI’s managing director.

At the Rendez-Vous, Bejot, Danard and CNC president Frederique Bredin unveiled plans to launch a database for French TV programs inspired by IMDB. Financed by the CNC on an estimated budget of $2.2 million, the database will help international buyers discover French programs.

Bredin, who attended the presser, said the CNC was dedicated to encouraging local industryites to produce content with the international market in mind. The org will be injecting more coin into the development of TV programs and will launch a new funding bonus that will be handed to drama series and documentaries that have pre-sold to various territories.