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France 5 wants primetime science docs

France 5 took advantage of MIPCOM to introduce its new Wednesday science primetime slot to the international market and longtime partners including NHK, PBS, BBC and ZDF.

Launched in January 2015, the ‘Science Grand Format’ slot provides 52-minute and 90-minute documentaries devoted to scientific adventure, archeology, the technological revolution, and the exploration of space.

The slot has been programmed with acquisitions such as The Mystery of Shakespeare’s Tomb from FremantleMedia International or Windfall Films’ Unearthed collection, but France 5 now plans to work with French producers and international partners on ambitious original projects, adding one original doc per month.

France 5 will invest an average €160,000 to €180,000 (US$175,000 to US$196,000), but said it will adapt its budget depending on the project. It has already received 80 project pitches and commissioned ten films. Fifteen other projects are also in development and needing international partners.

The first original productions set to launch in the coming weeks are Genghis Khan: In Search of the Secret Tomb from Agat Films, Solar Impulse from Gedeon Programmes and US partner Far West Films, as well as Looking through the Pyramids. Distributed by Lucky You, the latter is an €800,000 film about an international mission to scan the pyramids of Egypt using non-invasive visualisation techniques.

It is currently being produced by Bonne Pioche with a raft of international partners. Coproduced with Japanese pubcaster NHK, it has also been supported by investments from Hip Institute, PBS and Curiosity Stream, and has scored eleven presales.

“The slot is about great scientific adventures,” said France 5’s managing director, Nathalie Darrigrand. “All topics are possible: space, the earth, the human corpse… Our audience has an appetite for such doc content.”

The slot, which targets a family co-viewing audience, has claimed an average of 600,000 viewers since its launch.

Further current productions include a project about Who Killed the Neanderthal? from Bonne Pioche, and Ultima Patagonia by Gedeon Programmes and Les Films du Mille Pattes.