'Life is Sweet' for France Televisions' soaps

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CANNES -- As French fictions continue to drown in a sea of hit U.S. series, life is sweet for Gallic public TV group France Televisions' daily soaps, France Televisions vp and director general of broadcasting Patrice Duhamel confirmed at a press lunch in Cannes on Wednesday.

France 3's increasingly popular daily soap "Plus Belle la Vie" (Life Is Sweet) currently in its fourth year on the network, was just renewed for three more seasons. The daily Gallic fiction series brings in an average of 5 million viewers and a 20% market share for each of its 26-minute episodes, which air Monday through Friday just before primetime, at 8:20 p.m.

The show is also available for free via streaming on France 3's Web site, and an average of 100,000 fans watch each full episode of the series on their mobile phones thanks to the France Televisions-Orange VOD deal made earlier this year.

France 2 is in development on another daily soap set to air in spring 2008 in the pre-primetime slot. Tentatively titled "5 Soeurs" (5 Sisters), the series will track the adventures and rivalries of sisters ranging in age from 17 to 37 living with their father in Nice. Scripts are currently in development and casting is under way for the 26-minute fictional series that France Televisions is hoping will compete with both the popularity of U.S. series and the increasingly high ratings for DTT channels.

"We've entered into a new world. We'll never see the same ratings we used to on the terrestrial networks unless we just air American series," Duhamel said. "We could simply put 'Cold Case' and 'Without a Trace' on every night and that would be that. But that's not in the interest of a public-service channel."
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