ABC’s ‘HIP’ Remake Helps French Program Sales Hit Record $232M, As U.S. Becomes France’s Biggest Buyer

France’s TV sales market hit record levels thanks to deals such as ABC’s remake of crime drama High Intellectual Potential, as the U.S. became the biggest buyer of content from the European country.

Annual stats from the CNC (National Center for Cinema and the Moving Image) and Unifrance released this afternoon show sales of French TV programs reached a record €214.8M ($232M) in 2022, an increase of 15.4% year-on-year and 4.7% higher than in 2017, the previous record year. U.S. sales made up nearly €20M of the total.

However, drops in pre-sales and co-production business led to an overall 15% fall in French TV exports. Pre-sales were down 50.3% fall in pre-sales and co-productions dipped 38.4% dip against a record 2021. This means the overall figure was €319.6M, down from €375.9M last year.

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Despite the falls, the stats show U.S. has become the leading buyer of French programs for the first time, in no small part thanks to ABC’s deal to acquire the format rights to drama series HIP (High Intellectual Potential). The U.S. accounted for €19.2M in sales, ahead of Germany (€14.2M) and the UK (€14.1M).

We first revealed ABC was developing an American version of HIP (High Intellectual Potential) with film writer Drew Goddard in September last year. The TF1 and La Une show, known in Europe as HPI, was taken to series earlier this year as High Potential and marks one of few French shows to have been adapted for the U.S. in the past decade. The show follows a single mom with three kids whose knack for solving crimes sees her teamed with a seasoned, by-the-book investigator.

Geographically, Western Europe is the top country for French shows, at 40.7%, with North America second with a market share of 13.5%. Asia/Oceania was responsible for 7.7% and Eastern Europe took 4.7%). The CNC and Unifrance also revealed the top 10 buyers of French content accounted for nearly 55% of all sales, the highest level since 2005.

Worldwide rights deals, which the CNC and Unifrance qualified did not necessarily mean a global deal, was responsible for 27%, up nearly 5%. Within this, free-streamer AVoD deals made up over 20% as the medium continues to rise.

The overall international financial flow was €761.8M, a record level, which was up 12.2% on the previous record (€678M in 2021). Projects benefitting from the Tax Rebate for International Productions was a massive €442.1M.

The CNC and Unifrance said the growing appeal of French shows, along with “a more favorable environment” as effects of the pandemic subside, had helped push the sales figures to record levels.

Drama sales, at €80.7M and up nearly 41%, represented the leading export genre for the first time since 1999, when genre stats were first monitored. The average for the past decade has been 27.6%. This was driven by major deals for shows such as The Bureau and Vortex and formats deals for the likes of HIP.

Global streamers were responsible for an “exceptionally high” number of drama deals, and some 43.1% of all export earnings were attributed to foreign platforms, compared with 33.5% in 2021 and just 4.6% in 2013. Linear networks remain the top buyers across genre, accounting for 49.1% of all sales. Around 2.3% of all shows on SVoD services are now French, with Prime Video offering the most (4.6% of its library).

Docs rebounded strongly after a difficult 2021, rising 32.1% to €48.6M thanks to programs such as La Story Zelensky and Constructions Animales. The genre had suffered more than others during the pandemic, as shorter turnaround content was hit by lockdowns and commissioning freezes.

The traditionally strong French animation saw sales fall for the second year in a row, down 5.3% to €57.6M. The CNC and Unifrance noted this was specifically due to “a decrease in global rights sales.” Entertainment format sales also dropped, down to 7.9% from 10.4%.

Randall Broman, Mediawan’s Head of International Sales, Scripted, attempted to contextualise the rise in France drama at a press conference unveiling the stats. “Maybe seven years ago you had show that were more Franco-French, but the variety [today] has made it so it’s really well received internationally.”

He added that “a 40% increase is not normal,” noting drama had not suffered due to Covid due to its longer production lead times.

“It’s really a perfect storm for fiction. In 2022, a lot of big worldwide deals were closed, which brings a lot of revenues and a huge success for certain types of programs. HIP was a huge success. I spoke to the producer a few days ago… When they wrote the show, they wrote it thinking about American shows and suddenly, boom.”

New Unifrance Giles Pelisson President praised the “unique success” of HIP in his first public remarks since taking on the role.

The former TF1 CEO also added some color to the growth in TV sales. “What you’re seeing is the result of the impact global payers, whether AVOD or SVOD, are having on us,” he said, adding more investment in programming was driving up quality and global interest in French content. “There are more high quality shows coming out,” he added. “In the past a 52-minute [drama] episode was less than €1M but they’re are about €2-3M.”

Broman pointed to scripted remakes of Call My Agent and The Bureau, saying they were “perfect for successful remakes around the world. There could be 20 versions of Call My Agent around the world, and then the second seasons and the third. All that brings revenue and a rosy future on the fiction side.”

The exec, who appeared alongside Cécile Lacoue, Director of the Research, Statistics and Forecast Department at the CNC and Sarah Hemar, Director of Audiovisual at Unifrance, was also asked about how the labor strikes would impact French sales.

“The less the producer in the U.S., the more we can sell, but the bad side is all those formats like HIP will stop being produced and we might miss a year and the opportunity for big money. In general, I don’t think the strikes are a good thing.”

Unifrance and CNC gather the stats through an annual survey of distributors, including members and non-members of Unifrance. The pre-sales and co-pro stats are compiled by CNC.

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