France – French nets take battle online

TF1 serves up more programming outside of its primary kids block with Tfou Web TV
October 1, 2008

TF1 serves up more programming outside of its primary kids block with Tfou Web TV

The goal: To maintain TF1 block Tfou’s leading 31% share of children ages four to 10, its fall slate is taking viewers on a trip around the world (and the galaxy) with co-pros and acquisitions that will hopefully follow in the footsteps of current top comedy and adventure draws such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Totally Spies!

Fall hopefuls: Serving the upper end of Tfou’s six- to 10-year-old demo is 26 x 26-minute action co-pro Inami, with Belgium’s RTBF, Mediatoon and producers Seahorse-Anim and Ellipsanime. The series focuses on a young boy facing the dangers of the Amazon rainforest. Dominique Poussier, head of children’s at TF1, says she picked up the series to expose her demographic to different cultures and landscapes, while also helping kid viewers understand the necessity of environmental conservation. (The subject is something of a hot-button topic in France right now.)

Younger kids will get to travel from the comfort of their couch, too. Nickelodeon’s Ni-Hao Kai Lan (13 x 26 minutes) bowed on the net last month and introduces the four to sixes to Chinese culture. Poussier anticipates the show will entertain kids in an interactive mode reminiscent of Dora the Explorer, which happens to be one of the top shows on the net right now. The Nick show should benefit from playing right after another top preschool draw, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She adds that Ni-Hao will help viewers prepare for the future, alluding to the belief that China will be the next economic superpower.

Extraterrestrial online strategy: Heading outside of Earth’s atmosphere, TF1 is taking an adrenaline-filled journey with co-pro Monster Buster Club from Marathon Media. The action-comedy debuted on cablenet Jetix Europe earlier this summer, and bridges SpongeBob and Inami on Wednesdays. TF1 has also co-produced an MBC virtual world that launched on the website in September. Poussier says games are the main draw in the online universe, but Tfou Web TV is starting to make waves outside of the kids blocks. ‘We are not a children’s channel, so we really use our website to reach out to kids outside of our block times,’ she says.

To lure eyeballs away from its cablenet competition beyond Tfou’s regular broadcast hours, Tfou Web TV targets the six to 10 set via a 60-minute online after-school block starting at 5 p.m. and repeating at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. ‘As we acquire more programs for online, it will shift to a 1.5-hour block that will run twice,’ says Poussier.

A sneak-peek at ’09: Growing Web TV is a significant part of Poussier’s vision for 2009 and beyond. She’s staying with action-comedies, and casting her co-production net outside of France, looking to potential Canadian and American co-pro partners to create both half-hour formats and shorts. Whether across the pond or in France, co-productions will need to have an online component to be considered, and she’ll be looking to secure online video rights to pump up Tfou Web TV’s video player.

With a re-org pending, F3 makes hay with Wakfu on-air and online

Shifting structure: Big changes are afoot for France’s pubcaster in January 2009, when France 2, 3 and 5 merge under one kids umbrella that will be held up by France 3′s director of youth programming, Julien Borde. F3 currently shares the podium as the top kidnet and co-pro partner in the country with TF1, holding down a 26% share of kids ages four to 10. While there are intentions to continue sharing the wealth with local indies, Borde couldn’t yet divulge too many plans for the New Year. ‘It does mean we’re going to invent a new strategy…in the coming year, things will change dramatically for France 5 and France 2, but not for the fall,’ he says.

Fall hopefuls: Borde isn’t resting on his laurels while waiting for the transition. Tituef continues to be France 3′s top draw, but its flagship show for fall is Wakfu, a 52 x 26-minute co-pro with France’s Method Films and Ankama Animations. The 2-D/CGI animated action series is the channel’s first multi-platform co-pro and a dramatic follow-up to pay-to-play MMOG Dofus, which has attracted about three million players and 250,000 subscribers. Wakfu’s own MMOG will be out of its beta phase in Q4; it stresses an interaction between the environment and the community of players, as well as a connection with both the computer and television screen.

Other series filling out the September to December sked include a Christmas launch of The Garfield Show (52 x 13 minutes) from Dargaud Media and Xilam’s 2-D animated series A Kind of Magic (26 x 26 minutes).

Marketing and blocking strategy: France 3 is leaning on Wakfu’s online roots to generate early buzz before its launch this month on traditional TV. Trailers and hero-focused webisodes popped up on Toowami Encore, F3′s 24-hour online video player, as early as last February. And from June 18 to the end of July, the series’ first two eps were made available online. Mediamètrie Cyberstats from France 3 show each ep generated about 3.4 million views. Additional installments were put online at the beginning of August and in the middle of September, but ratings weren’t available at press time. ‘Our website is really becoming a medium,’ Borde says. ‘More and more, it’s another channel and gives kids unlimited access to our content, even though we only have morning slots.’

Back on-air, Borde opened up his weekend morning blocks to live-action gameshows. Thirteen half hours of Intervilles Junior, a co-pro from Mistral Productions, France 3, Gulli and Khazakh TV, launched in September on Saturday mornings. It’s a kid-led remake of France 3′s well-known adult-skewing gameshow Intervilles, and it aired during the summer. Objectif Aventure (Adventure Line Productions, Planète Junior and TSR, with France 3, TV5 Monde and AB3) launches this month and taps into the ever-popular theme of environmentalism. Originally a format from Switzerland, eight 12-year-old explorers from around the world are charged with finding a mysterious ecosphere while playing a series of green-inspired adventures.

A sneak-peek at ’09

and beyond: Millimages’ short series Rocket Jo (52 x one minute), Mr. Baby (50 x 3.5 minutes) from Xilam and La Station d’Animation’s Mr. Otter should pepper the 2009 schedule, but that’s as much as Borde would reveal about his on-air scheduling strategy for the next year. Looking beyond 2009, Borde will be aiming to attract older preschoolers (five- and six-year-olds) to France 2, and he also has his sights set on live-action acquisitions. Animated action-adventure slots are full at the moment, and most of the channel’s co-pro activity is squarely focused on kids and family comedy series. In all formats, Borde is open to web broadcasts to help build the France 3 brand. ‘The biggest challenge of all is to continue to build up the website and the free video channel,’ he says.

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