Hot French TV shows break export record

France's TV shows are so successful abroad right now that export sales of French 'télé' broke a record last year. What's even more interesting is who is buying the shows because one of the biggest consumers doesn't even speak French.

As France’s economy continues to sputter along, it has seemed like about the only French-made items that were selling exceptionally well abroad recently are weapons, but that is not true.

It turns out French TV programmes are in such demand abroad that their producers in France sold €137 million worth last year. That is the most programmes sold abroad in over a decade and an increase of eight percent over last year, the head of the trade group dedicated to exporting French shows told reporters this week.

“It’s the highest level reached in 12 years,”  Mathieu Béjot head of TV France International said. “After years in which French shows were in decline due to recurring heros who were at the end of their careers, we’re seeing a renewal of interest in French series.”

The global conquest of the supernatural drama series of "The Returned" is a driving force, but so are animated shows like “The Jungle Bunch” (Les As de la Jungle) and “Silex and The City.” But programmes like “Churchmen” (Ainsi Soit-Il) and Spiral (Engrenages) have also done well.

The fact TV shows and not wine or camembert were breaking export records last year is almost as surprising as who was snapping up the shows. The Germans accounted for 38 percent of France’s sales abroad in 2013, second only to French-speaking Belgium which bought 60 percent of exports.

Sales of French programmes also rebounded from the previous year in Italy and Spain, though France had little luck in the United Kingdom, which bought a declining number of French shows in 2013.

The news comes on the eve of the arrival in France of American movie streaming service Netflix, which was cause for much handwringing among French leaders concerned it would hurt France’s “cultural exception.”

However so far France’s TV producers, on the contrary, see streaming services as a way to sell more of their products.

"Some new members (of TV France International) say VOD could account for 25 percent of their turnover," Béjot said, the group head told reporters. "They have a growing importance."

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