France Set for Conecta Fiction European Country Focus

MADRID  —  Giant network TF1, pubcaster France Televisions, upscale channel Arte France, free-to-air network M6 and European TV-film force Studiocanal, owned by Vivendi’s Canal Plus Group, are among companies confirmed for June’s Conecta Fiction in Spain, where France has been chosen as its European Country Focus.

A much appreciated Europe-Latin America production forum and networking event, which allows companies far more time to meet, great and plan than May’s L.A. Screenings, the 4th Conecta Fiction will unspool for the second year running in Pamplona, northern Spain, over June 22-25, at the Baluarte Palace of Congress.

These combines will be joined by Mediawan Originals, Orange Studio, Lagardère Studios, Federation Entertainment, Elephant International, Banijay Group, Gaumont, Wild Horses Group and Newen, all companies with large ambitions in international:  Banijay paid $2.2 billion last October to acquire the Endemol Shine Group.

The initiative is also backed by the might of French institutions, from France’s CNC National Film Board to its audiovisual Production Union (USPA), French Screenwriters’ Union, national film commission network FilmFrance, and Nouvelle Aquitaine Cultural Agency  (ALCA) in South-West France.

The Conecta Fiction Focus, which is expected to include screenings and panels, also counts on the collaboration of export agency TV France International, the French Institute in Spain and the European Producers Club.

The round tables will present and analyze in depth how France’s drama series industry works: Its production and financing mechanisms, latest successes in fiction, and challenges and talents, said Géraldine Gonard, Conecta Fiction director. She added that the event will create networking slots to connect the members of the French delegation with other participants.

The focus comes at what the French TV industry hopes is a tipping point.

France’s TV fiction industry current produces 1,000 hours a year, French television networks invest around €500 million ($560 million) per annum, at least 50% from France Televisions. The CNC backs shows to the tune of almost €100 million ($112 million) per year. France also boasts rebates for French nationality shoots.

It has some of the biggest, most energetic and most admired companies in Europe, such as Studiocanal, co-owner of Tandem (“Shadowplayer”), Red Company Productions (“Years and Years”), Benedict Cumberbatch’s SunnyMarch TV (“A Child in Time”), Urban Myth Films (“War of the Worlds”), SAM Productions (“Ride Upon the Storm”) and Bambu Producciones in Spain (“On Death Row”).

France has hugely successful shows, such as Canal Plus’ “The Bureau.” It now has some of the most ambitious, for instance, TF1’s “The Bonfire of Destiny” (“Le Bazar de la Charité”)

Yet, when it comes to French series at least, it has yet to have  its Netflix breakout at the level of “La Casa de Papel-Money Heist,” “Dark” or even Italy’s “Baby,” though 2019’s “Osmosis” got good reviews and “The Bonfire of Destiny,” which segued to Netflix on Dec. 26 might right that.

With advertising revenues looking, however, to be at least flat in the future in the mature French market, its highly ambitious players are looking to co-production or co-financing abroad in a determined effort to preserve a TV production model where companies retain part of a show’s IP, said USPA’s Jérôme Dechesne, President of the European Audiovisual Production assn. (CEPI).

Traditionally, budgets for French TV fiction have run at between €850,000 ($952,000) and €1.2 million ($1.3 million) per 52-minute episode. International co-production may allow this figure to rise to minimum budgets of around €2 million ($2.2 million) Duchesne added, calling Conecta Fiction “a unique opportunity to allow meetings with Latin America, be it Spanish or Portuguese-speaking.”

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