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French TV exports take a hit

French TV programming exports have declined for the second year in a row after a record-breaking year in 2016.

Hervé Michel

The French Television Programme Exports 2018 study shows exports were worth €276m last year, compared with €336.3m (US$405.5m) in 2016, when they increased by a third.

The annual report, compiled for Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée (CNC) and TV France International (TVFI), includes international pre-sales and foreign contributions to coproductions. Sales of finished productions accounted for €173m of the total figure.

As always, animation has done well, accounting for 40% (€69m) of sales in 2018. While the genre has taken a bigger slice of exports this year, it has brought in less revenue than in 2017, when it earned €76m.

The continuing popularity of French animation was bolstered by shows such as Oggy & the Cockroaches, Totally Spies and Raving Rabbids Invasion, which were sold into China and Japan and to Netflix globally.

Sales of scripted amounted to €49.4m thanks to dramas Philharmonia and Maroni. Again, this was down on 2017 when sales reached €64m, but almost on a par with 2016’s total of €49.8m.

Documentary sales also took a dive since the peak year of 2015. In 2018, they brought in €30.6m, compared with €37.1m in 2015 – the biggest amount in five years.

French exports were down in almost all of their major markets.

Western Europe is still the biggest buyer of French TV, accounting for almost half of all export earnings, but dropped by 17.7% to €84.1m in 2018.

Sales of French content into North America, which had grown by 16% in 2017, fell by 14.1% last year.

But the biggest decline has been in Central and Eastern Europe, where revenue fell by 38.6%, and sales were down by 23.2% in the Middle East and 17.2% in Africa.

Even though the financial contribution of international coproduction partners dropped by 5.1% to €54m, Western Europe continues to be France’s biggest partner and increased its investment in French TV by 16.2% to €46.6m.

The study blamed the overall fall in revenue from animation coproduction on a 50.8% drop in copro investment from North America.

VoD services have become key players in the export of French programmes, especially in animation, where sales to VoD platforms can represent up to one-third of the annual export turnover of certain companies.

But even in new media (anything other than linear TV) French exports suffered a serious decline. Sales in this space accounted for only 13.3% of export earnings in 2018, compared with 21.5% in 2017.

The study found the growing success of VoD platforms obliged traditional broadcasters to take more risks in their acquisitions and invest in new types of stories and programming, but these changes could represent new opportunities for French prodcos.

The CNC and TVFI tried to put a positive spin on the 2018 results, pointing out that TV exports have grown by a third since they launched the study 25 years ago.

“In a complex environment, we are at a level of consolidation of our exports,” said Hervé Michel, president of TVFI.

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