Documentaries are regaining more space on premium French channel group Canal+, which is looking to commission primetime serials, to step up international copros, and to launch a new weekly strand.
While Canal+’s Sunny Side presentation last year was all about restructuring and savings, this year’s brought back smiles to producers’ faces, with the group somewhat increasing and diversifying its investment in the genre.
“Last year I told you that Canal+ Group was working at its reconstruction, and that renovation takes time,” said Jean-Marc Juramie, Canal+ Group’s senior EVP of pay-TV content, at the Sunny Side of The Doc presentation. “Well, I can tell you now that the work is nearly over. This year we intend to be much more proactive in documentaries, because this is a genre in which we believe.”
While Canal+’s latest strategy was to focus on just a few 90-minute docs per year, meant to be event-driven and monthly, the channel is now also looking for primetime serialized docs.
The genre is not wholly new for the channel, which commissioned, 15 years ago, first season of Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s murder trial miniseries The Staircase, of which the more recent instalment was coproduced with Netflix.
“Drama series have opened the way and created a greater appetite for series overall. We have the firm intention to initiate doc series and are ready to broadcast them in our scripted series strand,” said Christine Cauquelin, Canal+ Group director of documentaries and factual channels.
The primetime doc series move also serves non-linear purposes, meant to be carried by recently-launched SVOD platform Canal+ Séries and to feed the MyCanal digital on-demand service, whose documentary section offers Canal+ and Planète+ channels doc titles, alongside a total of 1,000 shows.
Canal+ is also coming back to the international coproduction game, including its role as a copro partner on the BBC and PBS moon doc 8 Days, which will enable event-scheduling, being broadcast as part of a special moon evening together with other docs on the same topic, while a MyCanal moon section will also be created on this occasion.
Next to the high-profile primetime docs, the channel is re-introducing a weekly strand called Les Eclaireurs (The Scouts), whose purpose will be to highlight world and society current and futuristic changes. The channel is launching a call for projects to producers. The strand is to launch weekly in February.
Elsewhere, the Canal+ documentary team continues to commission many docs and series for its Planète+ channels, and is now also working for the group’s other channels, including its DTT-FTA channels, looking for popular docs for C8 and music docs for CStar. Factual series will also be produced for the kids channels, with one of the first being a four-parter following young students in a Paris suburb’s classical opera school.
“The documentary genre is really there, on Canal+, it’s on all our channels, and for the various audience profiles,” concluded Cauquelin.