French TV Exports Up 18% in 2019, Driven by Increase in Animation, Docu Sales

Driven by French animation and documentaries, the foreign investment and international sales of French TV programs were up 18% to €325 million ($384 million) in 2019, the second highest score ever.

The figures were jointly unveiled by France’s National Film Board and the promotion org TV France International during the 26th edition of the Rendez-Vous Biarritz which kicked off virtually on Sept. 6.

Foreign sales of French programs alone were up 12.8% to $219 million, while global deals tripled over the last five years to reach a record level of $50 million bolstered by global platforms. The rise of worldwide deals concerned animation, as much as fiction and documentaries.

The biggest increase came from international co-productions which skyrocketed by 44% to break a 10-year record, especially for animated programs and documentaries.

Overall, international investment, including pre-sales, were up 7.6%. French animation reached an all-time record in foreign sales to $91.4 million and accounted for 40% of all sales. The U.S. was the leading market for French animation in 2019 with $14 million in sales, followed by Germany. The study said the sales for animation were strong thanks to the diversity of productions, ranging from cartoon to preschool programs, with international hits and IP’s, including “Molang,” “Simon,” “Ladybug” and “PJ Masks.”

Another popular genre of French programs in 2019, documentaries triggered a record volume of sales revenues to $52 million, a 44% year-on increase. Documentaries, especially those dealing with history, travel, science and investigations, sold to a large range of public and private broadcasters, both mainstream and thematic, as well as platforms. Top-selling docu titles include “War Crime Dealers,” “Humans: The Future of Our Senses,” and “The Real War of Thrones.” The study said revenue-sharing for documentaries was an emerging business model in 2019.

Although sales of fiction, notably series, maintained one of its highest levels in a decade with $54.8 million in sales in 2019, there were 6% down compared with 2018. French crime and thriller series sold well in Europe, especially in Italy which was the number one buyer of French drama in 2019. Western Europe represented half of all French fiction sales. Some of the best-selling shows include the thrillers “Philharmonia” and “The Bureau,” as well as “Find Me,” a fantasy-filled teenager drama.

Germany and Belgium were the top two destinations for French programs in 2019, but countries outside of Western Europe are also buying more and more French content, notably the U.S. which came in third.

China has also been keen on French productions in 2019 and accounted for $10 million in sales, bolstered by Chinese VoD services such as Tencent Video, iQIYI and Youku which are big purveyors of animation.

The report also pointed that although the export of French content was on the rise in 2019, dealmakers have been facing many challenges as back catalogues tend to have a shorter lifespan, and windowing strategies are getting more
complex and difficult to implement. “All buyers demand exclusive rights for longer periods of time, negotiations are getting tougher,” said the study.

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