Exclusive: M6 details documentary shift & highlights international coproduction appeal

Jonathan Curiel

French broadcaster M6 is making bigger moves into the documentary genre, unveiling its first projects and revealing its interest in international coproductions.

M6 is aiming to commission 12 “bigger” documentaries per year to run either during primetime or later in the evening, it said, detailing its strategy during the group’s first ever panel at Sunny Side of the Doc, which is taking place in La Rochelle, France, this week.

The broadcaster recently signed an agreement with producer unions to improve its investment into the genre, and smaller cabsat channels Teva (women) and Paris Première will also be commissioning more docs, it said.

“We want to reinforce our documentary offering and open it up to more producers,” said Jonathan Curiel, M6’s deputy programmes director, who oversees magazine shows and docs.

“Documentary has been evolving recently in its form, there are more and more bridges between scripted and unscripted, some talent working across both and building those bridges,” he said. “We want to join them on that move.”

The move to run more docs in the second part of the evening also plays into the strategy to extend the appeal of a primetime show, Curiel said. “For instancem, when we ran the [drama[ miniseries Chernobyl, we scheduled as lead-out a documentary on the subject.”

Curiel told TBI that he was also “interested in some acquisitions, especially when we are looking for something quickly to accompany a primetime show. We are also quite open to international coproductions.”

‘Event-driven & balanced’

M6 already runs some current affairs docs during its Sunday strands such as Zone Interdite and it has had several attempts to move into other doc genres in the past, but with little success.

However, M6 said it had been pleased with the success of a few recent docs it had tried, pointing to French environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand’s Legacy, which managed to get 2.5 million viewers in primetime and moreover was the leading show among younger audiences.

Another hit was a doc about popular late French singer Johnny Hallyday, Johnny By Laetitia, which secured three million viewers.

“For primetime, a doc needs to be event driven,” Curiel added, stressing that M6 has an average 2.2 million viewers, 58% of which are women. They are aged 49 on average, he continued, and are balanced in terms of social categories and those living in cities and rural.

The channel is looking for investigative and environmental docs, as well as shows that explore society and have impact, as well as some docudramas.

Among the first primetime docs greenlit by M6 are a couple of history docs, both related to the channel’s territories: one is about families of farmers, where people reveal their private archives; and the second is a history of restaurants.

“We are looking very much into cooking,” Curiel said, with formats such as Top Chef and Farmer Wants A Wife among M6’s most popular shows.

The channel has also commissioned a travelogue featuring one of its most popular hosts, with an ambition to be visually innovative. For later evening, there have been docs about incest and violence against women.


Read Next