Docs

MIPCOM Buyers Buzz: Nicolas Deschamps, ARTE France

With MIPCOM fast approaching, realscreen chatted with several acquisitions execs to find out what may be on their shopping lists for the market. Here, we talk with Nicolas Deschamps, head of acquisitions for ARTE France, about keeping its window on the world open in the face of a turbulent economy.
September 24, 2009

With MIPCOM fast approaching, realscreen chatted with several acquisitions execs to find out what may be on their shopping lists for the market. Here, we talk with Nicolas Deschamps, head of acquisitions for ARTE France, about keeping its window on the world open in the face of a turbulent economy.

What are some of the more recent successful acquisitions you’ve shown on ARTE France?
Overall, our editorial line is to look for shows open to others’ cultures, points of view and civilizations. In our ‘Faraway Places’ slot we have just broadcast the BBC’s The Wonderful World of Kahn to good audience figures. Between 1908 and 1930, millionaire French banker Albert Kahn decided to send photographers around the globe to document life on the planet. Thanks to his vast personal fortune, Kahn’s photographers were able to travel to more than 50 countries, capturing the environment and cultures of the known world.

What documentary slots are available on ARTE France now? Are there any specific genres or topics that you’re looking for at present?
There are more than 10 documentary slots on ARTE; this genre is so important in our eyes. Documentary has always given voice to those who don’t have it – artepro’s website (www.artepro.com) is perhaps the best way to have a clear view of what we are seeking.

This year we provided several daytime slots for all kind of genres (documentaries, series, kids’ programs, music). ‘Faraway Places’ is a daily documentary strand; we use this slot to really see the world through the eyes of others. It’s an opportunity to give viewers a wide vision of the world they live in. We are also on the lookout for a solid unscripted format that could be adapted for the channel’s purposes. This could be anything from a talk or magazine show to a factual-entertainment program. It’s a work in progress; there’s no concrete slot for this yet, but we wish to modernize the way we talk about culture.
Last but not least, the channel hopes to create long-term viewer loyalty by engaging young viewers through our weekly kids block targeting eight- to 12-year-olds across animation, docs or magazines, based around science, nature and discovery.

How has the economic turbulence of the past year affected acquisitions made for ARTE – has it affected the amount of productions, or the quality of productions, that you’ve been pitched?
As a publicly funded broadcaster ARTE is not directly affected by the advertising crisis even though the hardware costs (DTT, HD, mobile TV) are growing significantly. Thanks to our exceptional stability we were able to maintain our acquisition budget and were beyond the hard turbulence some broadcasters have had to face. Talking about the quality of productions we’ve been pitched, the risk, which is a key element in all creations, is sometimes vanishing. Risk means having to accept the possibility of failure if you want to find a new passage and we can understand that is a difficult choice to take nowadays. Hopefully this period where historically big players remain creatively silent allows new players to emerge: Scandinavia, Israel, Korea, Latin America… in all the cracks of today’s economic turbulence you will find tomorrow’s opportunity.

Several years ago, ARTE began looking for more ‘docu-entertainment’-style programming, in order to branch out to a younger audience. Is that still a strong part of what you’ll be looking for?
To my eyes, MIP is a gigantic garden nursery with all kind of species, each genetically very different. The magic of the exchanges means that one day, and we never know when it really happens, [we have] the birth of a new hybrid specimen. I am in Cannes to seek this new flower.
I would like to rethink the way we talk about culture through original formats that can draw from new technologies.

You’ve talked about ‘building a new kind of media’ by finding the meeting place between traditional television and the Internet. Are you looking for projects that also have strong online possibilities? Are there any that come to mind that you’ve shown over the past year?
ARTE is at the cutting edge of what a broadcaster can give on the Internet (see http://gaza-sderot.arte.tv/fr/ as an example) and the team is working hard to keep advanced.
As a buyer I am dreaming of the Internet as a multiplier of content. It proposes much more than a simple television can give. At last, we are working for a public with two heads if you will: one head shares collectively common events as other individuals and the other is free to find richness and difference at his own convenience.

Look for more acquisition exec Q&As in the September/October issue of realscreen.

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