French net Planète+ is setting aside a sizable portion of its commissioning budget to pre-buy two ambitious civilization series or docu-dramas per year, in a bid to compete in an increasingly crowded market.
Discussing his desires for international docs at Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, Olivier Stroh (pictured above), the director of Canal+’s documentary channels, also said that acquisitions are important to the channel, representing around 60% of its line-up.
As for French docs, the channel is refocusing its commissioning strategy towards fewer but more high-end and off-the-beaten track titles, increasing its production budget from €1 million to €2.2 million (US$1.26 million to $2.77 million).
The two first such high-end docs commissions will arrive on air this season, one being a 4 x 52-minutes series from Gédéon Programmes about the history of Paris and its construction, which will feature CGI recreations and docu-drama elements. Planète injected €800,000 into the production.
Another event-driven documentary will be The Private Life of Dictators, produced by Maria Roche and distributed by Upside Television, which Planète+ invested €300,000 in. Elsewhere, the network has an adaptation of French writer Marc Dugain’s work La Malediction d’Edgar in development, about the relationship between J. Edgar Hoover and the Kennedys.
Next to these event-driven docs, Planète+ is working on documentaries that bring in different kinds of points of view or contributions, such as a program on French gangs featuring former gang leaders who have agreed to talk; and in another genre, Hitler my Neighbour, which looks at the rise of Hitler through the eyes of a six-year-old Jewish child who used to live next door to the tyrant.
The news comes with Planete+ facing fiercer competition in France at the end of this year, with the launch of a free-to-air dedicated documentary channel RMC Découverte in December. As such, the Planète documentary channels of Canal+ are attempting to reinforce their exclusive and original programming offering.
Planète+ aims to broadcast “the best of French and international documentaries.” The group also runs Planète No Limit, Planète Justice and Planète Thalassa, all of which will introduce new shows and series in the fall.
As for the main Canal+ premium channel, which devotes its line-up mostly to movies and sports, the net will carry on with its strategy of 10 primetime documentaries per year, plus some in second part of the evenings; its ‘Nouveaux Explorateurs’ weekend strand; and the acquisition of feature length docs featured at major festivals such as Sundance.
The network also confirmed it will broadcast a new installment to Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s The Staircase, as revealed by realscreen earlier this year.