StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

France Télévisions’ Documentary Strategy for 1,900 hours: An interview with Catherine Alvaresse for Sunny Side. Watch the video!

France Télévisions is France’s multi-channel public broadcaster, buying 1,900 hours of documentaries / year.

For a Sunny Side Meet the Executive presentation, Catherine Alvaresse shared France Télévisions’ vision.

Watch my informative and exclusive conversation with Catherine Alvaresse:

Recorded June 15, 2020


What is the big picture for France Télévisions? Describe overall remit for docs across your platforms:

  • Documentaries for all FT: France 2, France 3, France 5, and France.TV
  • France 2 is the main channel, NOT a documentary channel.  It’s a news channel, structured by news and sports, big events, primetime, History, Science, international events, or national events.  They also broadcast epic documentaries
  • France 3 is the regional channel, it broadcasts region by region, specific documentaries for difference territories, caters to an older audience
  • France 5 is the youngest channel of the three, documentary channels, factual channel, and all genres: human interest, Science, Discovery, Social issues.  For example, the Science doc on Pompeii, which was broadcasted during the confinement, and had the best rating ever (1.5 millions viewers!)
  • platform launched in 2019 caters to a younger audience

Catherine Alvaresse


Volume of docs per year across all platforms: 1,900 hours

  • International partners only on France 5
  • France 2 and France 3 have very little international coproductions
  • 400 hours of international partnerships overall


What is the buying structure? Does each channel have its own documentary acquisition team?

  • Completely reorganized in 2019
  • Organized by genres under Catherine: all teams operate across all platforms
  • About 40 buyers in Catherine’s team
  • 6 buyers in Caroline Behar’s team


  • History: 500+/- hours
  • History genre airs on all three main channels, but varies in subgenres
  • France 2 leans toward National History
  • France 3 highlights famous people
  • France 5 is more niche


What kinds of projects are in the classical History genre, that rely more on archives?

  • France 5- Black Book of USSR. Interviews, archives
  • France 3- project on the French Exodus of 1940
  • Archives are very important to FTV- audiences respond very well to it


  • Science- for France 5
  • Primetime every Thursday, 90 minutes
  • Big picture Science
  • Scientists in the field
  • Climate Change specials go in Sunday night event slot to get more viewers (Green Wires)

True Crime?

  • FTV doesn’t believe it’s their role to cover Crime as a public service, UNLESS it brings in some kind of social issue

Travel / Lifestyle

  • Only on France 5
  • New series about French travelers
  • All travel series are during the summer

Recent Hits & Notables:

Catherine selected several documentaries to highlight FTV’s strategy. Clips are included in the video.

Notre Dame

  • Successful project: Epic documentary about seven centuries of building Notre Dame
  • Animation
  • For France 2
  • 7 million views
  • Led to the Joan of Arc project

Joan of Arc

  • 100% animation
  • No expert interviews
  • Very accurate script- 15th century France was very well documented
  • Appeals to viewers who normally consume fiction because it is dramatized
  • Appeals to families watching television together

What’s next?

  • Just completed production of French Revolution– same format as Joan of Arc and Notre Dame
  • How revolution changed France and gave them the rights they have today
  • Hybrid of documentary and fiction- actors playing historical figures
  • Animated sketches from that period of time

How to Pitch France Télévisions?

  • Best way to reach Catherine and her team:
    • France Télévisions website — documentary section
    • Email addresses are organized by unit/team
    • Can send projects- they read everything!

(Notes by Becca Wallance)

Coming Soon:

Watch my Sunny Side interviews with: