Newen’s Bibiane Godfroid Talks Storytelling, Growth Opportunities


Newen CEO Bibiane Godfroid talked about the company’s evolution as a European leader in the production and distribution of content in her Media Mastermind keynote this morning at MIPCOM before being joined on stage by her colleagues Romain Bessi and Guillaume Thouret for a discussion moderated by World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

Newen was created in 2008 with the acquisition of Telfrance, the oldest drama production company in France. The group went on to acquire a series of companies. “Over a short period of time, we became the leading producer of drama in France,” Godfroid said. The company has also become a key producer of factual content, entertainment formats and animation. In addition to diversifying its content slate, Newen has expanded its client base. “Four years ago, Newen was producing primarily for two companies, France Télévisions and Canal Plus,” Godfroid explained. “A lot has changed since then.”

A major turning point was TF1 Group taking full ownership of Newen in 2018. “Newen was part of the new strategy of TF1. CEO Gilles Pélisson decided that in addition to its traditional core business, broadcasting, TF1 would focus on two different [areas]: digital and content creation and production. It’s really an international approach and a rebirth for Newen. We aim to become one of the European leaders in the production and distribution of programs. The commitment from TF1 allows us to accelerate our global expansion and to create synergy between the different companies of the group.”

The recent acquisition of Reel One Entertainment has expanded Newen’s production footprint outside of Europe and given it a major foothold in the TV-movie market.

The company works with broadcast and digital platforms in all of its key markets, Godfroid noted, and has a growing distribution business.

“My major challenge is the constant search for new talent. Talent is key and Newen is all about stories.”

Godfroid was then joined on stage by Romain Bessi, managing director of Newen, and Guillaume Thouret, managing director of CAPA and unscripted at Newen, to engage in a discussion with World Screen’s group editorial director, Anna Carugati.

Carugati asked Godfroid about bringing her broadcasting experience to bear in her role at Newen. “Being the head of channels taught me two things. One is the importance of telling stories—and telling stories that interest the audience. It’s simple to say, but it’s not always the case. And the other is, I think we better understand the needs of channels.”

On managing the network of production companies at Newen, Godfroid stressed the importance of joining up outlets “with the same DNA.” She also mentioned the company’s monitoring and development system, “which gives the different companies the opportunity to speak and exchange about trends and new programs. Also, it’s a possibility to get best practices from one company to the other.”

Carugati asked Bessi about plans for further expansion of the network. “We want to grow if it makes sense organically. We are a key player in Europe, and we will consider all the countries and possibly go to the English-speaking markets further.”

Thouret discussed the opportunities created by streaming platforms. “These are new partners for us, which is good news. On the creative side, it’s an opportunity to diversify the genres. For example, we had the opportunity in France to develop sci-fi and comedy. Osmosis on Netflix is a young-adult sci-fi series. I don’t think any other broadcaster would have commissioned this series.”

He continued, “We don’t retain any rights,” on originals for the global streamers. “That’s the rule of the game; we play with it. We don’t want to only have this scheme of production, but we have adapted to it.

“It’s important for us to focus on new platforms but also remain very strong partners with traditional broadcasters,” he said.

The streaming services have also expanded the footprint of French-language shows, Bessi noted. “It provides long-term opportunity for us.”

The streamers taking global rights “is a frustration,” Bessi said. “It takes time to develop IP, and of course, we would love to get more long-term value out of the IP we create. But I believe the competition will change the environment and regulation will evolve. Hopefully, that will mean more balanced relationships. And that’s happening. They are now partnering with local broadcasters, like [Netflix] did with TF1 recently. They are working more with broadcasters, which is good for the platforms and for the producers. There will be new platforms within six months or a year, everybody will need content, and I think the relationship will be more balanced going forward.”

The conversation then moved to CAPA, which is marking its 30th anniversary this year. For much of its history, Canal+ and France Télévisions were the company’s primary clients. “The challenge we had for the last five years was to diversify our clients,” Thouret said. “We are now working for TF1, ARTE, Netflix, all of the platforms from the France Télévisions group. We also had to diversify the documentary genres we are producing. Producers have joined us who are specialized in sports, culture, art and science. It was important for us to have a broad offer. And the key remains to be able to adapt to the broadcaster needs but also to their budgets. It’s key for us to keep the quality but be able to adapt to the budget, the needs of each broadcaster.”

Carugati then asked Bessi about Newen’s distribution business. “Over the last year, we have become a distribution machine because we have TV movies, series, animation, documentaries. That allows us to place our content all over the world.”

On the company’s ambitions for the next 12 to 24 months, Godfroid said French and international expansion remain key, as are identifying new talent and building up the company’s animation business.