A catch-up with Canal+ head of docs

Christine Cauquelin, the head of documentaries at Canal+, gives an update on the French pay TV channel, which has 5.2 million subscribers and pushes factual programming as one of its key offerings.
September 29, 2008

French viewers find a lot of sports and fiction features on Canal+, but the French pay TV channel is also very factual-friendly. ‘Factual programming is a key element of our original programming offerings,’ says the channel’s head of docs, Christine Cauquelin.

The roughly 100 slots dedicated to non-fiction confirm Cauquelin’s assertion. They include ‘La Séance Docs,’ a monthly 90-minute global issues slot; a Sunday 52-minute adventure and travel slot called ‘Les Nouveaux Explorateurs;’ a Friday 52-minute current affairs slot called ‘Investigation;’ and a monthly 52-minute slot that launched in January called ‘Emergences,’ which is about new trends.

There is also a monthly 90-minute primetime slot (with no specific name) that covers French society. Yes, that’s right – a 90-minute primetime doc slot. (That heat you feel is the jealousy rising from producers in other countries that aren’t fortunate enough to have their own primetime slot devoted to docs.)

Canal+’s programming is a mixture of 80 percent pre-buys or coproductions and 20 percent acquisitions. Producers interested in pitching the channel should understand the foundation on which its non-fiction programming is built. ‘Our key values are exclusivity, innovation and quality entertainment,’ says Cauquelin. She adds that she is also focused on contemporary content.

Remarking on changes the documentary business in France could make to achieve more mass appeal, Cauquelin says the doc community needs to rethink some of its age-old techiques. ‘In order to renew itself, the documentary genre needs to call for new ways of telling stories,’ she says. ‘Documentaries need to distinguish themselves from the global programming offerings.’

About The Author