France Télévisions is going to overhaul entirely its programming units and channels’ organization by the end of the year, in anticipation of expected budget restrictions and channel closures alongside digital developments championed by the French government.
In La Rochelle at Sunny Side of the Doc on Monday (June 25), France Télévisions’ recently appointed MD of channels and programming, Takis Candilis (pictured), said that the new organization for the public broadcaster will be announced in October, including who will head the group’s documentaries division, a genre which, he said, will remain a strong programming focus.
In terms of structure, France Télévisions will be moving away from its current, individual channel management model, looking to appoint instead one program manager per genre, working across all channels.
“We are moving forward in order to imagine the future of our broadcasting group,” he said. “We are changing the paradigm. So far, the group was organized around a multitude of channels. We now want to put content first.”
With the French government announcing plans to drive a major public broadcasting reform earlier this month, France Télévisions is still somewhat in the dark regarding aspects of its future. The reform was reported to provide massive savings, of €300 million at least – a figure the government did not want to confirm or deny.
Part of those savings come from the government mandate to France Télévisions to run fewer linear channels, and move towards more digital initiatives. Earlier this month, word came that free-to-air, DTT kids and family channel France 4 will be closed. Some of France 4′s shows will move to the remaining bigger networks such as France 2, France 3 or France 5, and others will be part of a new OTT children digital offering.
The group’s smaller DTT channel France O, which focuses on French oversees territories, is threatened as well. For France 3, there is a move to triple its regional input, from two to six hours daily.
Perhaps in a bid to pacify producers, the government has said that budgets for commissions will remain the same, which was confirmed by France Télévisions in La Rochelle. The group is investing €101 million in documentaries this year.
Candilis said that no date has been set to axe France 4, and that it’s too soon to estimate consequences of the move, adding that the digital drive will take time. “All our agreements are based on linear terrestrial broadcast, what means we need to rethink all arrangements with players such as authors and funding body CNC,” he explained.
After addressing these topics, the various channel’s doc executives (excluding France 4) presented their documentary line-ups, which struck some as surreal, given that the executives could all be in different positions in a few months’ time once the cross-channel management model takes hold.
France 2 will have a busy season with some big shows on the way, including A motion capture history doc on Notre Dame de Paris and more of the ‘Apocalypse’ franchise’s World War I and II docs. The flagship pubcaster also increased its involvement in BBC copros along the lines of Planet Earth or Blue Planet, now contributing to three BBC docs per year, up from two previously.
“We want to show our engagement to the planet with documentaries showing the beauty and fragility of Earth,” said France 2 director of documentaries, Catherine Alvaresse.
France 2 has also commissioned a couple of blue chip French wildlife shows, a third installment of Boréales’ ‘Wild France’, and a documentary about wolves called The Wolf Odyssey.
Humanity and the environment will also be a new focus at France 3, in addition to its history doc slate, and more docs about France and its regions.
As for France 5, which is the biggest documentary outlet for the group, the channel said it was happy with the introduction of its weekly science primetime strand which recorded an average 1 million viewers this season. France 5 is launching a new anthology series about contemporary arts called ‘Influence’ and also has started commissioning some four-part miniseries.
Sunny Side of the Doc continues in La Rochelle, France, until June 28.