With new DTT channels making an impact on the French television market, it’s all the more important for a channel to retain and strengthen its identity.
According to France 5′s commissioning editor for acquisitions and coproductions, Perrine Poubeau, and her colleague and acquisitions executive Thierry Mino, the French public broadcaster and its parent company, France Télévisions, is using that philosophy to guide its acquisition and copro choices.
With half of France 5′s schedule devoted to documentary content, both in primetime and daytime, Poubeau says viewers continue to regard the channel as not only a home for documentary, but a purveyor of quality content.
“Our strategy and editorial line are very consistent so our viewers know what to expect,” she says.
Both Poubeau and Mino say that such consistency continues to result in audience share gains, even in the face of an increasingly challenging and competitive market. According to the team, France 5 claimed a 3.5% market share in 2012, up from 3.3% the year prior.
Thus, with MIPDoc and MIPTV just on the horizon, the France 5 team is looking to bolster its supplies of fresh content in the genres that its viewers gravitate to – science, wildlife, ancient civilizations and archaeology – with a focus on the latter for this market.
Specifically, big one-offs or series for primetime in archaeology and ancient civilizations are tops on the wish-list for MIPDoc and MIPTV, along the lines of History of the World, an 8 x 50-minute copro with the BBC that aired this past autumn, and upcoming one-offs The Real Noah’s Ark, a copro with the UK’s Blink Films set to air in 2014, and Stonehenge Empire, a copro with UK-based October Films, also due next year.
Also, family-targeted 90-minute specials in that area, and also in science and wildlife, are a particular focus for the team in Cannes, “but they have to be very spectacular,” adds Poubeau.
For daytime slots on France 5, the team looks for wildlife content much like The Nile, a 3 x 550-minute and 85-minute special coproduced with Terra Mater; discovery and travel programming; palaeontology; popular science content; shows about the environment; investigation and current affairs; portraits of iconic personalities; and commemorative or anniversary programming, such as 30 Days that Shook the World, a three-part series coproduced with ZDFE.
Poubeau says the team is more selective when it comes to committing to coproductions or pre-buys. “Although we acquire some 500 hours per year, we are more picky in terms of coproductions – we coproduce something like 60 hours per year,” she offers. And while the genres that France 5 specializes in for copros overlap with what the team acquires, there is an emphasis on finding “something really fresh and new, and usually that’s delivered through the use of new filming techniques.”
She points to the upcoming Survival, an epic natural history 6 x 50-minute series coproduced with the BBC and making use of 4K Red Epic filming technology, as a prime example, as well as an upcoming pre-buy, the 6 x 50-minute Timeslice from Atlantic Productions.
The team emphasizes that when looking to work with France 5 as a copro partner, treatments and proposals should include a clear synopsis that features the shape of the plot and the structure of the program, an overall budget or financial plan (a provisional one will do), and a summation of the producer’s track record. Hosts or non-French speaking character-driven content should be avoided.
Mino says another area of focus for France 5 has been to broaden the geographic scope of its coproduction partnerships. “It started with Asia, but now South Africa, Brazil and the Middle East are among the territories that are much more involved in producing and proposing more programs for us,” he says.
Perrine, meanwhile, emphasizes that as the team also acquires factual and doc content for all of France Télévisions Group’s channels (France 2, 3, 4 and 0), more global offers are made on behalf of the France TV Group for content, and that programming can also be re-versioned or repackaged to work for different channels’ programming needs within the group.