Arte France seals pact with gov't

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PARIS -- Arte France president Jerome Clement is set to sign a contract linking the alternative Gallic television channel to the state from 2007 to 2011.

The government will control the network's objectives for the coming years and provide funding. Clement hopes to have the contract signed before the upcoming presidential elections. Arte France plans to branch out into other formats -- DVD, VOD, Internet, ADSL and mobile.

The network aims to have a 3.5% audience share versus 3.3% in 2006 in analog and will increase its audience share to 2% from 1.5% in digital and to 1% from 0.7% on cable and satellite.

The government plans to boost Arte's annual public funding by 3.4% and its programming budget by more than 5% per year.

"It's a good contract. The battle wasn't very difficult since we were heard and understood," Clement told French newspaper Le Monde. The objective is to attract the 25-49 age bracket, who represent more than 30% of Arte's audience in addition to viewers from other demographics.

The network will continue to invest in fiction and documentary feature production, particularly in the wake of wins for its co-produced "Lady Chatterley" at this year's Cesar Awards and for "The Lives of Others" at the Oscars.

"It's our honor to take risks in creation (with) these films, no other channel wanted them," Clement said. The network also has been developing VOD offers via the Internet since last spring and more recently offered its controversial TV movie "L'Embrasement," which was downloaded a record 50,000 times.

Arte also is developing its cultural and European programs in mobile formats and hopes to branch out internationally with various programming and local-language contracts abroad.
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