French TV Show Export Revenue, North America Sales Hit Records

Canal Plus, Photographer: Rob Payne
'The Returned'

French fiction sales to the U.S. rose 209 percent as total revenue and pre-sales hit an all-time high of $231.3 million helped by such hit dramas as 'The Returned.'

French dramas have given a big boost to the country's television industry's exports, with revenue and pre-sales hitting an all-time high of $231.3 million (€210.3 million) in 2014 largely due to the success of its new high-end productions, according to a new report from the National Cinema Center (CNC). The figure marks an increase of 12 percent over 2013.

International sales totaled $171.37 million (€153.8 million), but it’s pre-sales that gave French productions the biggest boost. Largely bolstered by English-language shows, such as EuropaCorp’s Transporter: The Series, CanalPlus' highly-anticipated upcoming dramas Versailles and Panthers, pre-sales were up 33 percent over 2013 to $63 million (€56.5 million). Versailles has pre-sold to Germany, Spain and BBC Two in the U.K.

The increased appeal of French fiction in North America was also a major driver behind the increase. Sales were up 34.2 percent overall and hit a new record, with fiction alone up 106.1 percent, largely on the success of dramas such as Les Revenants (The Returned), which airs on Sundance in the U.S., Les Temoins (Witnesses), which launched on Netflix in the U.S. during the summer, as well as Taxi Brooklyn, which aired on NBC last year. The U.S was particularly active, with fiction sales up a huge 209 percent.

"The increase is continuous since 2009, but in 2015 growth is more significant, showing the truly international dimension of French programs,” said Mathieu Bejot, CEO of TVFI, the association of French TV program exporters.

North America has always been a strong export market for France, but mostly for animated programs, and the growth in drama marks a major shift for French productions.

Format sales of game shows and reality competitions were up 3.5 percent to $25.4 million (€22.8 million), and documentaries rose 13.2 percent.

Though animation sales fell a slight 3.9 percent, the genre remains the most exported one for the French, with $50 million (€45 million) in overall sales on the strength of popular characters, such as Ubisoft's The Rabbids.

Western Europe remained the biggest market, though it was a mixed bag. Germany remained the top consumer of French programming in the EU, with $25.6 million (€23 million). Sales to Italy were up 21.2 percent, but down 13.7 percent in Spain.

Sales to Africa saw a big jump of 65.5 percent, and Asia and Oceania also saw an increase of 32.9 percent. Marked declines came in the Middle East (down 17.7 percent) and Latin America (down 17.1 percent).