62.6% male, 37.4% female,
predominantly 50 and over (40.4%);
35 to 49 (29%); and 25 to 34 (15.9%)
4.95 million (average 650,000 between
9 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. each night)
24 hours a day
Head of documentaries
Launched in 1984, the channel offers movies, information programming, sports, entertainment, dramas, series and docs, spending E1 billion (US$1.3 billion) each year for its overall line-up. ‘Canal+ is a pay TV channel, which means the key values in looking for new programs are exclusivity, innovation and quality entertainment,’ says Cauquelin, adding that the channel broadcasts roughly 100 hours of exclusive documentary programs per year.
Among the first to put docs in primetime in France, Canal+ nonetheless slipped off factual film’s radar when parent company Vivendi Universal fell into financial troubles more than three years ago. Stable once again, head of documentaries Christine Cauquelin says non-fiction is on the return.
Canal+ has two weekly slots dedicated to docs, the first being ‘Dimanche Evasion’ (‘Sunday Escape’), which airs at 5 p.m. and showcases blue-chip wildlife aimed at a family audience. ‘These films can also present human adventures and popular science, as long as their story deals with a natural history issue,’ says Cauquelin. This slot shows 42 docs a year – half are pre-bought from French and European producers, and the rest are acquired internationally. The license fees range from E50,000 (US$66,000) to E100,000 ($132,000) for an 18-month license period exclusive to all media.
The channel’s second doc slot is ‘Lundi Investigation’ (‘Monday Investigation’). Airing at 10:30 p.m., ‘it is investigative journalism whose goal is to reveal stories with a new angle, bringing new revelations about affairs that have been swept under the carpet,’ says Cauquelin. Of the 40 docs featured in this slot each year, 10 are in-house productions, 10 are acquired from international distributors, and 20 are pre-bought from French producers. The license fee range and license period are the same as the Sunday slot, and are exclusive to all media in the French territory.
In addition to the two slots, the channel broadcasts primetime docs four or five times a year, with no restrictions on content or format. ‘Anything goes, as long as it is ambitious, exclusive and explores new ways of telling stories,’ says Cauquelin, adding that she isn’t fond of talking heads in the channel’s docs.
Cauquelin is especially pleased with an 8 x 45-minute series called Death on the Staircase, which aired last fall. Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, the series follows the North Carolina trial of writer Michael Peterson, who was accused of killing his wife. Produced by Paris-based Maha Productions and Canal+, and coproduced by the ABC Television Network in the U.S., Staircase takes viewers from investigation to verdict and questions whether the death was an accident.
What’s Coming Up
‘[We want] to bring documentaries back to the front line and present them as a major programming offering,’ says Cauquelin, noting that Canal+ is airing more primetime docs that can compete with feature films. For example, the channel recently pre-bought a 90-minute epic docudrama called The True Legend of the Eiffel Tower, which is slated to air early next year. Produced by Paris-based JLA Productions, Eiffel will use CGI and 3-D digital matte paintings to track the building of the tower from the initial concept through to its construction.