LA ROCHELLE: France’s Canal+ group has announced at Sunny Side of The Doc a new organizational structure for documentaries, following the departure of Diego Bunuel, former head of docs for premium channel Canal+, who joined rival Netflix in January of this year.
Christine Cauquelin (pictured), director of the Planète+ documentary network and also Bunuel’s predecessor in the Canal+ head of docs job, was promoted this month to the newly-created position of group director of documentaries.
The documentary department will be comprised of one editorial executive per Canal+ group Pay-TV channel, with former Bunuel deputy, Steve Bauman, in charge for the docs of the premium Canal+ channel. It will also be working with the Canal+ group’s free-to-air DTT channels, C8 and CStar, acting as a resource and expertise center when it comes to the commission of documentaries, Cauquelin explained.
At Sunny Side of The Doc, the Canal+ channels documentary line-up presentation was much anticipated. After the group offered less money for key League 1 football rights, consequently losing the bid to Spanish group Mediapro, there are fears that Canal+’s subscription base will consequently dramatically shrink in 2020 when football rights end, affecting the group’s overall business model and therefore its investment in scripted and non-scripted original content. On the documentary front, the group also had issues with producers last year, halting some docs underway to negotiate budgets.
“This is [a] ‘work in progress’,” said Jean-Marc Juramie, SVP pay-tv content for the group. “Canal+ group is currently working at its reconstruction.” And while, like any renovation, that process can result in what he calls “annoyance in-house and for the neighbors,” he maintains that when all will be said and done, “documentaries will remain central to the group’s offering” and that budgets will remain stable.
As for last year’s producers issue, he said after the session that arrangements were made for the group to maintain the same level of investment, while receiving more rights for that investment.
With Cauquelin very new in the job, the editorial line for docs at flagship channel Canal+ is not yet entirely decided. Planète+, meanwhile, will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, and Planète+ CI has been experiencing solid growth, driven by a female audience. The group also developed a prominent on-demand documentary offering bolstered by the Planète+ channels’ programming.
Under Bunuel’s leadership, the group’s premium channel concentrated its originals effort around fewer documentaries — 10 per year — but they were ambitious, long-form primetime and event-driven. Cauquelin said the event-driven and cinematic approach will be continued. “We will also continue to tell the story of exceptional destinies,” she said.
Still, the channel does not want to limit itself to one-offs, and wants to consider some miniseries as well. “The audience is not just linear anymore, we need to get used to that,” says Juramie. “Series usually tail off linearly, but they then grow much bigger on demand.”
The Sunny Side of the Doc conference wraps today (June 28) in La Rochelle, France.