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Docs, animation help French programme exports hit record high despite pandemic

Oggy & the Cockroaches from Xilam

Exports of French programmes reached a record-breaking high last year despite the coronavirus pandemic, amounting to a cash flow of €354.8m (US$407m), according to a report.

The sum, based on the international sales and foreign pre-financing of French shows in 2020, grew by 9% in one year and was the highest figure recorded since the annual study, conducted by le Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée (CNC) and the TV division of UniFrance, began 25 years ago.

International sales of French programmes also remained stable last year compared with 2019 during the Covid-19 crisis, rising slightly by 0.7% to €196.9m.

French animation remains the most popular genre among international buyers, with revenues doubling over the past 10 years to €74.7m, according to the research.

Overall, animation represents 38% of sales in all genres in France with its top buyers based in Germany and the US, owing to titles such as Molang, Ladybug and Oggy & the Cockroaches.

Meanwhile, drama, the second most popular genre among foreign commissioners, had a steady year in 2020 as sales increased by 1.5% from 2019 to €47.1m, thanks to the international success of series such as dramedy Dix Pour Cent (aka Call My Agent!), first aired by pubcaster France Télévisions and later acquired by Netflix, and Canal+ spy drama The Bureau.

But the biggest winners in 2020 were documentaries, such as Megapolis, Trees: A Global Superpower (Le Génie des arbres) and The Deep Med (Planète Méditerranée), which set a new record with sales of €46m, up 4.5% on 2019.

As for worldwide rights, sales remained high, the research revealed, accounting for 20.9% of total exports and generating €41.2m.

Rights sales were particularly high in animation, which jumped by 24.1% compared with 2019, and documentaries, which soared by 30.1% in one year.

Finally, the research shows, France is the second most represented European country on SVoD platforms internationally behind the UK and the sixth nation worldwide.

Dominique Boutonnat, president of the CNC, said: “Despite the health crisis, 2020 was a very good year for exports of fiction, documentaries and animation programmes, which shows the capacity of our professionals to respond to international demand. We must capitalise on this success, pursue our quest to dominate the international markets and maintain our advantage. The new UniFrance, which we have just created, will help us take the ambition of our professionals further and around the world.”

Hervé Michel, VP of UniFrance, said: “The health crisis that rocked the international TV market in 2020 created issues with obtaining new programmes, extended decision-making times and caused uncertainty among broadcasters, but it also created opportunities for sellers.

“An increase in consumption of content during the lockdowns, the greater need for TV programmes, the reinforced role of platforms and also our members’ extraordinary capacity to adapt to this challenging context, enabled them to extend even further the impact of French TV creation throughout the world.”

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