Julia Schulte, senior VP of international sales at France tv distribution, talks to TV Drama about how the evolution of the current global media market is ripe with opportunity for French fiction.
As international audiences’ appetites for drama remain high, joining traditional linear channels and established streaming services in meeting the demand have been the emerging new VOD platforms. It’s a trend in the market that has only accelerated as smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and high-speed internet have become more accessible around the world. The pandemic has had a hand in boosting the trend as well, according to Julia Schulte, senior VP of international sales at France tv distribution.
“There are more and more regional and local on-demand platforms popping up everywhere,” Schulte tells TV Drama Weekly. “The diversity of the models brings more complexity and more access to series; AVOD and OTT players are multiplying everywhere. And with the diversity of those platforms and channels comes an interest for European and French drama series for different types of audiences. The broadcasters and platforms are approaching audiences in a different way—they define the viewers more and more as communities of interests and can propose series that have a [narrower] target group.”
Schulte sees the evolution of the current market as ripe with opportunity for French fiction, which can connect with similar communities around the world.
“This market is growing fast and, as such, is in need of international programs and the French expertise in the fiction arena,” Schulte says. “Indeed, French fiction exports well, and in increasing volumes, because of the launch of new digital platforms in various parts of the world. These media platforms represent new opportunities to highlight our original French productions, and each of them has different strengths in its content. It is very strategic for us to work with all of them.”
Schulte adds, “Synonymous with boldness, creative freedom and very high artistic quality, French fiction is characterized by the strength of its writing skills. On this note, fiction ‘made in France’ is proving more and more ambitious, with burgeoning success and a strong international presence.”
Along with a growing demand for format rights for scripted series from Europe, Schulte notes the ongoing appeal of true-crime series, pointing to the success of Laëtitia from CPB Films and L’Ile Clavel and Thalie Images’ Something to Hide. “Foreign audiences are strongly drawn to the true-crime genre, as viewers are torn between an urge to know more and a sense of dread about what they might discover; they want to bathe in the worlds of murderers and really experience the most unsettling of criminal cases,” says Schulte.
Also joining France tv distribution’s catalog of fiction shows are those made for France Télévisions’ digital public service channel that are aimed at a younger demographic. “We feel that the series have to be highly original and well written today, and they can allow themselves to have a rather narrow special target group as the channels aim for this originality,” says Schulte. “And linear broadcasters are struggling to engage young audiences, so there is a real need for those types of series.”
A common theme of the titles that travel well for France tv distribution, according to Schulte, is their authenticity. “There can be global trends and themes but they have to be linked to a specific place and time,” she says. “The stories need to touch audiences worldwide and have a universal essence but may happen in a very specific place, with a very original setting and respect local differences and languages.”
Among the titles that have found global success for the company is Call My Agent!, which Schulte calls “proof that an original French production can conquer the world, both in its ready-made version and in terms of a concept that can be localized.” There’s also the daily series Chronicles of the Sun, which has been adapted in Greece, and crime fiction shows such as Captain Marleau, Criminal Games and Bright Minds.
“Last but not least, we have our digital fictions, nuggets of strong, surprising narratives starring various modern-day antiheroes,” notes Schulte. “Having found their niche both on platforms and linear TV worldwide, the three shows—Stalk, Derby Girl and Parliament—are catalysts in forwarding the creativity of a whole new generation of French writers and directors.”
France tv distribution’s approach to the next year or so, as the world continues to emerge from the worst of Covid-19, will remain steady, says Schulte. “Our strategy—to achieve an across-the-board presence in all markets—has not changed,” she explains. “Our aim is to continue developing in Europe, for sure, but also in Asia, North America and Latin America. Keeping our content up to date is essential if we are to succeed in establishing a worldwide presence.”
“Our main challenge is to keep going to all the upcoming major trade fairs,” she adds. “Although our presence at all these events might still be digital, we’re remaining strongly connected to buyers despite the health crisis. Throughout this difficult period, we’re being as efficient as we can to provide buyers with content that’s likely to appeal to their audiences.”