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Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC)

Programming Profile

SODEC invests locally for global success

16-11-2020

In this Content London On Demand campaign, Louise Lantagne, CEO of Québec’s cultural agency SODEC, reveals how she’s driving local content investment to enable French-language Québec TV productions to reach international markets.

 

The Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC) is a Québec government agency overseen by the Canadian province’s Minister of Culture and Communication that was established to support Québec’s cultural industry at home and abroad.

 

The region has seen huge international success with scripted TV projects, including Encore International’s comedy Boomerang (59×22’), adapted in Sweden for Discovery and sold to Amazon Prime for France, Switzerland and Belgium, and sitcom Les Beaux Malaises (43×22’), which travelled to M6 in France, Star TV in Serbia and Netflix globally.

 

Lantagne
Louise Lantagne, SODEC

With Québec’s population of eight million hungry for more original content and increasingly turning to the streamers for their weekly 28.2 average hours of TV consumption, SODEC CEO Louise Lantagne hopes two new initiatives will help local producers compete with the growing international big-budget competition.

 

“We launched a new programme to increase the production value of television shows with the specific goal of enhancing their commercial potential in markets outside Quebec,” says Lantagne.

 

The initiative means that projects can receive up to C$750,000 (US$576,170). “The project must be commissioned by a television broadcaster. The producers then come to us and explain how they’ll use the money to enhance production for better value on the international market,” says Lantagne.

 

The funding was designed to curb a decline in investment, long before Covid-19 brought further complications. “The plan was to launch the programmes prior to the pandemic,” says Lantagne. “We used to manage the tax credit incentives for television, but we never invested directly into television shows because in Canada, as well as in Quebec, the television series are financed by the Canadian Media Fund tax credits and the licensing of the broadcasters.

 

“But over the last two years, particularly in Quebec, the budget per hour for television series has become very low because commercial revenues for broadcasters have fallen locally. [Revenues] are now largely going to the platforms, echoing a global problem.”

 

A major aim of the scheme is to encourage local content to compete on the world stage. “We are looking to sell our programmes in the international market. We are really successful in our own territory, but you have to monetise and give commercial life to series. We have to think how to export them better,” says Lantagne. “We’ve seen throughout the international market that budgets have grown, and with that, production values have increased, and we have to compete with that.”

 

Lantagne hopes the new incentive, which has already benefitted 18 projects including drama, documentaries and animation, will help to retain home-grown audiences. “We are competing with all of those platforms and the high production values seen in the likes of Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies and The Handmaid’s Tale. Local audience expectations have grown, but the budgets that we had to deliver those kind of production values and special effects hadn’t,” she says.

 

Another of SODEC’s new initiatives is supporting the pre-development of local television series based on Québec literary adaptations. “Part of SODEC’s mandate includes supporting local authors, so we decided it made sense to back TV projects based on literary IP in pre-development to help producers find a broadcaster,” says Lantagne.

 

SODEC’s responsibility is also to help facilitate international coproduction. “If local broadcasters pass on the project, then producers can find English Canadian or European coproducers. We help producers who are looking for creative or financial partners,” says Lantagne.

 

For Lantagne, it’s important the project still works locally. “You have to serve your local viewers first and then see if the project has international interest,” she says. “A good example is Encore Télévision in Québec, which had huge success with Pour Sarah [6×52’]. It was then remade by Groupe TF1 in France and became a big primetime hit.”

 

Another local project, C’est comme ça que je t’aime (aka Happily Married, 10×43’) has also seen big international success, after being selected as a Hot Property at last year’s Content London. “Content London really launched it on to the international market. It has since been bought in France, Germany, the US and English Canada. It’s also being adapted in the US and agreements are in the works with Nordic countries,” says Lantagne.

 

For Lantagne, local projects have the ability to travel because of their authenticity. “The originality of the stories being deeply rooted locally is the key to their success. Everything is grounded in universal human emotion so it can travel. But you don’t try to make content to sell internationally; projects find international audiences because they are authentic.”

 

Quebec’s unique geographic positioning also adds to the originality of its cultural offering. “We have this kind of melting pot here. The content is in French and rooted in Québec, but we’re heavily influenced not only by France, but the UK and America, which gives us a uniqueness,” says Lantagne.

 

SODEC has also been instrumental in helping the Quebec TV industry maintain productions while balancing Covid-related restrictions. When sectors of the economy started to reopen after the shutdown, the Quebec government announced more than C$170m to relaunch cultural industries, including C$91m earmarked for cinema and television.

 

The agency has been using the funds to support the industry transition to a virtual way of operating, from participating in virtual markets to helping producers adapt their promotion and marketing to a virtual environment. “We had to reinvent and be very agile,” says Lantagne.

 

SODEC is also using C$51m of the funding to offset production and insurance costs to make shooting possible, which has allowed 70 Québécois TV shoots to continue since July.

 

For Lantagne, maintaining the arts during the pandemic is of great importance. “Culture is the best remedy as it helps us to grow. It’s good for our soul and for humanity,” she says. “We need to connect with other human beings through books, movies, music and television, as it’s good for our mental health, although it’s difficult to maintain with venues like cinemas closing.

 

“In Catalonia in Spain, the government declared that culture is an essential service because you need it to maintain the mental health of the population, and I think that’s a great statement.”

 

For information on more programming presented under the umbrella of SODEC, including Encore International’s Bête Noire, click here.



More programming profiles

  • 11-06-2020
    In the first of our multi-company C21 Digital Screenings, presented under the umbrella of Quebec cultural agency SODEC, we take a look at programming from six French-Canadian companies to see how they punch above their weight on the international market by combining American and European styles.

     

    The production industry in the Canadian province of Quebec has achieved international success with many of its shows. Recent examples include Montreal-based Productions Casablanca’s drama series Happily Married, presented at Berlinale 2020 and acquired by the French SVoD platform Salto, and Datsit-Sphère’s medical comedy Transplant, which was recently sold to NBC in the US.

     

    Those two production companies, as well as fellow Quebec companies Encore TV (Boomerang, For Sarah), HGagnon Distribution, KOTV (Plan B) and Pixcom (Victor Lessard, La Faille) are part of Quebecois culture-focused government agency SODEC’s presence on C21’s Digital Screenings this week, showcasing their wares to the world to continue the roll-out of French-Canadian content worldwide.
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