French TV fiction suffers at U.S. dominance

Local market share plummets 43% over three years

PARIS -- U.S. TV series are giving French fiction programming a run for its money, having monopolized the Gallic small screen last year, according to figures from French audiovisual promotion association the APA, released Monday.

French fictional programs took just 13 of the top 100 most-watched shows for 2008, while U.S. imports monopolized the list with 57 spots.

This marks a major shift from 2005 when French fiction took 56 of the same 100 spots and U.S. shows just four.

Meanwhile, market shares for the country's digital networks have quadrupled in just two years, taking a 14% share of the most-watched TV in the territory, yet the DTT channels haven't yet started to invest in the fiction genre. DTT channels invested a total of €1.1 million ($1.5 million) this year, a marginal 0.2% of total investment in the genre.

However, France's main TV channels continue to invest in home-grown fiction, with Arte doubling its investments and focusing on 52-minute formats, public TV group France Televisions investing €258 million ($357 million) in fiction in 2008 and announcing plans to invest even more in the future.

Arte doubled its investment in 2008 from €13 million in 2007 to €26 million in 2008. Leading private network TF1 invested €172 million in fiction in 2008 compared with €160 million in 2007.

However, most of the networks reduced investment in animation, with France Televisions cutting its 2007 animation budget of €32.3 million to just €23.8 million in 2008, M6's animation budget dropping from €4.1 million to €2.6 million in 2008 and cable and satellite channels' collective investment decreasing from €5.1 million to €4.8 million last year. None of the DTT channels invested in animation last year.

"I'm optimistic," APA president Jean-Francois Boyer said in an interview. He added: "We're living through a radical transformation that's very stimulating, during which we're in the process of inventing French series that are longer and more addictive such as 'Fais pas ci, Fais pas ca,' 'Engrenages' or 'Un Village Francais.' It's going to take five years -- we need to rethink our writing and our production."