The confluence of eager international buyers on the hunt for scripted dramas and strict local statutes that prioritize standalone production houses has had a galvanizing effect on the French television business.
New actors have jumped into the fray, while other deep-rooted entities have refocused their attention toward series development. The landscape has significantly expanded, causing many longstanding players to recalibrate their place within it.
“The market will see a surplus of series and producers, especially as more film outlets move towards series production,” says Romain Bessi, managing director of French media company Newen. “The challenge in the years to come is to figure out how to distinguish ourselves and our offerings from every other option.”
Among the country’s top creators and distributors of TV content, Newen has produced such shows as “Versailles” and the popular local soap “Plus Belle la Vie.” In April 2018, it became a 100% subsidiary of TF1 Group, and has used its new support and intervening year to retool and rebrand.
After acquiring equity stakes in production outfits in Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, Newen has introduced a new logo and corporate motto, “All About Stories,” in a bid to emphasize their openness to European creatives.
“Whether it’s [producers like] Pupkin, De Mensen or Nimbus, they all produce high-quality fiction programs, and bringing them into the fold reinforced our desire to bang the drum for creatives and for the creative process,” adds Bessi. “We operate under the assumption that there will be more and more production going forward, so we’re positioning ourselves via our relationship with the talents we attract.”
The media player has used TF1’s support to accelerate development on original animated and scripted content, while continuing to produce series for buyers including Amazon and Netflix. It has also looked to expand its sales impact via its Newen Distribution arm, using the new corporate motto as a guiding principle.
“Series succeed because of their narratives and characters, and that’s what also helps them sell,” says Malika Abdellaoui, Newen Distribution managing director. “This abundance of quality content flooding the market has created both audiences and buyers that hold higher standards than ever before. What counts then are the stories we tell and how we package them, because that’s what makes the difference.”
In the case of police procedural “Candice Renoir,” Newen’s marketing team sought to familiarize international buyers with the show’s main character, a quirky single mom who also happens to work as an ace detective, while giving the show a gradual, windowed rollout. By building a campaign around the show’s appealing lead and patiently travelling with the title across the globe, Abdellaoui’s team was able to sell the project to 80 different territories, marking the series as one of France’s top fiction exports of the past year.
As Abdellaoui sees it, Newen’s newly consolidated position has offered her and her team a useful leg up.
“Marketing is key in order to stand out today,” she notes. “You need to position your series well, and to attract visibility you need to highlight the qualities that set your project apart. And as a distributor, you need the resources to do that.”