France Televisions has confirmed its commitment to animation spanning all ages with the Paris-based public broadcaster announcing a raft of series and putting a call out for more animated education and edutainment content.

Speaking during an online press conference on the third day of this year’s Virtual Annecy animation festival, the broadcaster’s CEO Delphine Ernotte Cunci revealed the education service it launched for school children during lockdown has doubled its audience and it now wants to build on this success.

France Television became the first broadcaster in Europe to set up school lessons on TV this year, with the aim of cutting across the digital divide – broadcasting six hours of content on France 4 and reaching over one million children a day, according to Ernotte Cunci.

A further two hours of edutainment content could also be accessed via Okoo, the pubcaster’s online platform for kids aged three-twelve and their families, which launched last December.

The broadcaster’s director of young audiences and animation, Tiphaine de Raguenel added that during lockdown 40 per cent more content was viewed on Okoo, which has enabled the broadcaster to promote new content.

“Early learning education has therefore become fundamental and from now on part of our investment in animation will go towards edutainment shows which will echo the school program,” she said.

While de Raguenel added that much of this content was live-action, the broadcaster is looking for more animation in this area, which, she added, could bring the history and general knowledge genres to life.

De Raguenel also emphasized that it was also seeking animated edutainment for older children. “Traditionally edutainment has been aimed at the preschool market but this genre has come to the fore during lockdown so we really want to expand on that,” she added.

In this vein, De Raguenel announced that the broadcaster is developing a ten-part short format music series with “Peter and the Wolfe” producer Camera Lucina.  “Luz et Los Sonidos” will focus on a deaf girl who goes to a Beethoven concert and discovers creatures of different colors emerging from each instrument in the orchestra.

Elsewhere, France Televisions director of animation, Pierre Siracusa announced a slew of animations for all ages, affirming the broadcaster’s commitment to increase animation across its TV slots until 2022.

In development is a French version of Zodiak Kids’ successful U.K. preschool animation series “Mumfie” and, in the upper pre-school category is the 52-part short format series “Audrey’s Shelter” from Watch Next Productions, following the exploits of a seven-year old girl whose parents transform their house into an animal shelter.

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Luz et Los Sonidos @Camera Lucida

Siracusa also enthused over two high-concept comedies aimed at older children including Monello Productions’ “Me at Your Age ” which sees a ten-year-old boy catapulted back in time when an adult says “when I was your age” – forcing him to relive their experiences.

Also announced was Cyber Group’s “50/50 Heroes”: a 52-parter which sees two half siblings discover they each have half a superpower, and must work together and get to know one another better to harness their gifts effectively.

While France Televisons has been a leading backer of European Animation, a recent Ampere Analysis report into the French market reveals that overall content spend at the broadcaster is down by €1 million compared to this time last year, with investment dropping from €2.1bn in 2018 and 2017 to €2bn in 2020.

However, the report confirms that France Televisions is still one of the most prolific commissioners of original content – ordering over 120 first run TV shows in 2019, compared to fellow pubcaster Arte’s 60 and its commercial rival TF1’s 40.

The public broadcaster also remained the largest commissioner of new scripted shows last year – commissioning 60 first run shows in 2019 compared with TF1’s 20 and M6’s 5.

And the good news for animators is that France Televisions shifted its investment last year to favor scripted content more heavily, commissioning a greater number of Comedy, Children & Family and Drama series.

In 2019 France Television more than doubled its number of children and family shows from seven shows to 15; comedy commissions rocketed from two in 2018 to eight last year.

The Ampere report observes that French TV groups in general have risen to the challenges facing production during the COVID 19 pandemic – commissioning a flurry of replacement shows – with infotainment and interactive shows proving in particular to be “safe bets.”.

However it warns that the shutdown of drama productions due to COVID 19 restrictions means that a scripted content “hangover” is still to come.