TV5 USA, the first French-language network to be broadcast across the U.S., will be launched via Echostar Dish Network on January 3, 1998. The 24-hour service, partly funded by France, Belgium and Switzerland, will receive funding to the tune of 30% by the Government of Canada and the province of Quebec. About 30% of programming at launch will be Canadian.
Guy Gougeon, president and ceo of TV5 Quebec-Canada and the Latin American and U.S. operations, says the service’s projections, including DTH and possibly cable at a later date, aim for 70,000 American households by late 1998.
TV5 USA programming is divided into four categories: foreign news and current-affairs documentaries; Films and Fictions, a strand which will launch with a Catherine Deneuve retrospective; focus pieces on francophones around the world; and cultural programs, including Bernard Pivot’s Bouillon de Culture. Eric Halgand, TV5 USA’s program director, also programs TV5 Latin America.
Gougeon faces the challenge of selling a channel with zero American content to American cable operators. However, TV5 USA data shows French to be the second most prevalent foreign language in the U.S. after Spanish. About 14 million Americans are of French heritage and two million of them declare speaking French at home.
The marketing plan focuses on areas with a high francophone concentration: Louisiana and the Cajun community, the Québecois ‘Snowbirds’ in Florida, French immigrants in the New England states and South California, and most importantly, New York.
‘Most French speaking Americans still have a strong link with their original country. They know TV5 and are impatient to have access to programs in their language and about their cultures,’ says Claire Bourgeois, TV5 USA’s director of communications.
Another group targeted by TV5 is the education community. There are 13,000 American French teachers for more than one million students. TV5 execs attended the National Conference of Foreign Language Teachers in Nashville in November with the premise that TV5 will provide a useful tool for teachers, says Bourgeois.
Unlike TV5 Quebec-Canada, a non-profit consortium of Quebec-based broadcasters, TV5 USA has been legally constituted as a corporate entity under the laws of the State of Delaware. The service will operate out of Montreal with three senior TV5 USA executives reporting to Gougeon: special advisor Yves Guerard, Halgand, and Bourgeois.
TV5 currently reaches across five continents including Asia and Africa and is available in more than 70 million households, says Gougeon.
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