8 APR 2024

MIPTV 2024: French docs, a perfect fit for linear and digital

Executives from France’s Kwanza, CLPB Rights, Terranoa, and ZED analyze the current demand for documentaries in Europe, discuss the use of AI for factual projects, and announce new titles for the spring season.

8 APR 2024

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Europe is going through a conflictive social and economic context that affects several industries, including the audiovisual. "Despite that, the demand for documentaries in Europe remains constant," asserted Véronique Commelin, Head of Sales and International Development of CLPB Rights, who also clarified that major industry players maintain a conservative perspective regarding subjects and treatment. "The rapidly shifting trends in current affairs, influenced by the geopolitical landscape. As production rhythms struggle to align with these developments, that poses challenges for distributors," she affirmed. Additionally, Commelin mentioned a notable surge in demand from the AVOD and Smart TV operators. "Revenue projections remain uncertain and do not compensate for the slowdown of the demand from the big OTT players. Buyers are now more hesitant to make decisions, and getting them engaged before the rough-cut stage has become quite tricky," she stated.

Lucy Le Gruiec, Head of Distribution and Acquisitions at Kwanza, agreed on the constant appetite of European buyers for documentaries, both from traditional TV and digital players. She also affirmed that buyers are more selective with content and slightly more risk-averse. "On the other hand, there is great enthusiasm in finding the creativity to get those big partnerships working when the content is right," she said.

Isabelle Graziadey, VP of International Coproductions and Distribution at Terranoa, affirmed a substantial market disruption with the growth of OTT services, streaming platforms, and FAST services. "Whose business model is still quite uncertain. They need mainstream volume content to feed their services and to remain in the game. Wildlife, history, science, and travel are popular genres that can address the niches of consumers who are always hungry for new content to watch at minimal costs. However, traditional broadcasters are still alive and in demand for higher-quality documentaries. The distribution business has to adapt and diversify, and we spend careful time benchmarking the trends and new services to cease new business opportunities wherever they are," Graziadey expressed.

Today, the discussion about artificial intelligence is central to the content industry. It is a technology that is here to stay and can positively impact content creation, but it must be used carefully. "We have seen it more as an opportunity, as it streamlines certain processes in distribution or animation production, making them more cost-efficient," expressed Commelin from CLPB Rights. "It is a compelling tool for reducing the cost of localization, allowing us to launch sales more quickly. However, in factual entertainment, we must be mindful of the risks concerning the authenticity of sources and information that AI can provide, as well as the potential overuse and discrediting of the IP of the content. Since it facilitates rapid and less costly content creation, it can stimulate the uncontrolled growth of micro-markets. Therefore, it is an opportunity that requires careful balance," she added.

Charlotte Tachet, Head of Distribution & Acquisitions at ZED, classified AI as an ingenious tool that is becoming increasingly widespread in the content industry. "New technologies do have the power to improve how we make and promote a film. Our marketing team has been able to use it occasionally to communicate on a newly launched program that still lacked visuals. For example, Midjourney has been quite useful in generating and reconstituting images or mood boards for history projects. Likewise, we've used AI voice generators on some of our rough cuts," she described. "It's an opportunity to give a film in production a more 'complete' look for future buyers, offering them an overview of the finished product. But these AI-generated voices are only temporary: in the final cut, they're replaced by real actors. AI makes it easier for both marketing and sales teams to seek pre-financing. At last, we're also using it to enhance the CGI of some of our films. As a producer and distributor of documentaries, we'll always prioritize what's true to reality. AI cannot replace the emotion that comes from authenticity. Despite being a practical means of supporting audiovisual creation, it cannot completely replace human inventiveness. For now, we've been using it sparingly," she concluded.

"We have to be very careful when using AI in certain areas because a documentary represents reality, and we have a contract of trust with the viewer on this point," said Le Gruiec from Kwanza. "Although we are exploring AI tools, at this stage, we don't have any AI-generated titles," she added.

"It is a game changer in our creative industry with a real cost efficiency that no one can deny," commented Graziadey from Terranoa, who also agreed that AI technology still needs to be used with certain ethics and not hinder the quality of the scriptwriting and the complexity of the stories we tell. "We don't want to be seen as copy-cats using AI everywhere and must be careful not to lose the craft to make good, complex, and diverse programs. I hope viewers will tell the difference," she affirmed.

At MIPTV, Kwanza will bring a variety of new titles such as "Wild Animals Vs. Germs: A Battle To Death," the anniversary titles "Inside D-Day: Filmmakers On The Frontline," "Eurostar: Minding The Gap," Ancient Builders, "Machu Picchu: City Of Stones," and "Venice: Building Beauty From A Swamp, "Hell On Wheels: World's Deadliest Roads," "Crash Course," and "The Hidden Face Of Scientology."

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, ZED will feature "D-Day: 100 Days to Beat the Third Reich" and Catherine Bernstein's "Auschwitz, Voices of Survivors." ZED is also launching several investigative projects, focusing on hot topic issues, such as "Tehran Confidential by Julie Lerat;" and science titles like "Xenografts: The Future of Science?."

For CLPB Rights, history will be a dominant theme in MIPTV, kicking off presales of “The Orphans of the World War II,” while unveiling the documentaries "Cywia & Rachela: They Resisted in the Warsaw Ghetto," "Christopher Reeve, The Eternal Superman," and the newly acquired Franco-Belgian coproduction"Eddy." In the science & discovery selection, the French distributor will feature a three-part series, "The Metamorphosis of the Ice Giants" and "Prenatal Diagnosis: Pregnancy under the Loop."

Terranoa will attend MIPDOC with a raft of newly released history and science titles, such as "African Glory" and "Collisions Life and Death From Outer Space." The company will also show a sneak preview of "Film: 1874: The Birth of Impressionism," produced by Gedeon Programmes.

By Romina Rodriguez