France: Scripted TV fiction sees increased success

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The Luchon Festival of Televisual Creation, of which Médiamétrie and Headway are partners, offers the opportunity to take stock of French fiction (TV movies, series, serials). Fiction represents 25 per cent of programmes watched on French television. Among these, French scripted has an increased position and represented 85 of the 100 best performing scripted programmes in 2017, attracting an average 6.2 million viewers. More than two thirds of people believe that the quality of French fiction has improved within the space of 3 years. These programmes also benefit from new usages with every second 15-24 year old privileging “binge-viewing”. Médiamétrie and Headway analyse the place of French fiction in the TV landscape as well as what viewers feel about national creations.

In 2017, the French continued to watch as much television: on average 3 hours 51 minutes per day and per individual, on all screens. Fiction in general, and French fiction in particular, forms the basis of this consumption. The leading programme genre available with 23.2 per cent of the TV offering, it is also the leading genre watched with a quarter of what is watched being scripted.

French fiction still on top

The upturn continued in 2017 for French fiction: out of the 100 top fiction broadcasts on the French television in 2017, 85 were French and 79 were broadcast during prime time. The increasingly positive public perception explains the success among audiences, as the exclusive study carried out for the Luchon festival shows. In 2017, more than two thirds (68.3 per cent) of people believed that the quality of French fiction had improved within the space of 3 years. It represents an increase of 16 points compared to 2016. French fiction is also progressing in terms of modernity (65.6 per cent of people surveyed), variety (61.6 per cent of people surveyed), and innovation (58.4 per cent).

A fragmentation of audiences for a more open playing field

In 2017, the 85 French fictions featured among the top 100 fictions, attracted an average of 6.2 million viewers compared to 6.6 million for the 81 French fictions in the top 100 in 2016. This year, French fiction benefited more channels: the playing field is more open, with four channels featuring in the top 100 compared to two in 2016.

The Crime genre took first place for audiences: thus Capitaine Marleau (7.7 million viewers on France 3), Section de recherche (7.3 million on TF1), Les petits meurtres d’Agatha Christie (6.7 million on France 2) and Glacé (5,7M on M6) were huge hits for their respective channels.

Internet screens (computer, mobile, tablet), as well as catch-up on TVs, completed the success of French fiction, attracting a significant audience: 440,000 additional viewers (+11 per cent) for Plus belle la vie on France 3 and 253, 000 viewers (+10 per cent) for Presque Adulte on TF1.

Thus, the success of French fiction is being confirmed year after year and you just have to look back at 2011 to see how far it has come: out of the 100 top fictions at that time, only 11 were French and the ranking was dominated by a handful of large American productions. Today, there is more diversity: 29 different fictions (compared to 14 in 2011), with 25 of them French appearing among the top in 2017.

Fiction, barometer of changes in TV usage

Although 39 per cent of viewers prefer series broadcast over several consecutive weeks, deep-seated changes are starting to appear. The age of viewers determines their preferences in terms of the rhythm of broadcasting and viewing method. Youngest viewers are distinguished by their “binge-viewing”* with about every second 15-24 year old privileging this viewing method. On the other end of the age pyramid, viewers aged 50 years and over mainly prefer single programme fictions, with about 48 per cent of them favouring TV movies.

SVoD, which is ideal for binge-viewing, also plays a major role in the evolution of usages: 2 TV viewers out of 3 favour the programme and the content over the means of broadcasting. This rate rises to 73 per cent for 15-24 year olds; those aged 50 years have a similar idea since 68% of them share this opinion. Changes in usage for fiction, the most watched genre, offer an indication of what TV usage might be in the future.

Luchon festival, a showcase for the success stories of the future

French fiction is enjoying increasing success in France and abroad, with a record volume of exports and audiences, as well as professional recognition (critics and awards). During previous years’ events, the festival’s jury has become used to selecting quality fictions that later have proved to be great hits among audiences when broadcast on TV. Those selected in the past few years include Section de Recherche (TF1), a crime drama, some episodes of which exceeded 7 million TV viewers. The jury also rewarded comedies, the television success of which continues to increase year-on-year: Scènes de Ménages (M6) rewarded in 2011, which continued to attract 4.9 million viewers in 2017, and Fais pas ci fais pas ça (France 2), the consistency of which in terms of audience numbers (4.9 M on average) has been a delight for the channel for several seasons. Finally, Elles…Les Filles du Plessis (France 3) rose to 1st place for the channel’s prime time audience in 2016.


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