#StorytellingMatters Interview with... Christophe Sommet, CEO of TF1 Group's Thematic Pole

Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 aims at helping bring to light talents and stories which question, engage and impact. Through a series of #StorytellingMatters interviews, discover the vision of our most influential partners in the international documentary ecosystem.

Be together! Please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what your company’s main objective at Sunny Side of the Doc.

I manage the TF1 Group's Thematic Pole, which includes 3 pay channels, including the 2 documentary channels, Ushuaïa TV and Histoire TV. Ushuaïa TV, the only channel 100% dedicated to protecting the planet, celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020. Histoire TV is History channel with a general approach. More than ever, the channel intends to present living history in all its facets, through a wide variety of formats and perspectives. Each channel is available in 30 French-speaking countries to nearly 15 million subscriber households and attracts 3.6 million viewers each month.
Our main objective at Sunny Side of the Doc is to explain the editorial lines and the acquisition and production policies of the channels. It is also to meet the actors of the documentary world within this essential event. A moment of exchange and sharing that is even more important in this period of pandemic.

Be positive! What has been your greatest professional accomplishment over the last 12 months? What lead to this success, despite the pandemic?

For Ushuaïa TV, I can mention the documentary Black and White Felines (52') that we co-produced with Bonne Pioche Télévision and Safari de Ville. We presented the project at its early stage during the 2019 edition of the Sunny Side of the Doc. This is an international project with a significant financial investment on our part. It is also a unique and atypical editorial project that almost never saw the light of day because of the pandemic. Despite this, we were able to secure a shooting window in autumn 2020 in tourist-free Kenya. The reception for its broadcast in May was excellent.
For Histoire TV, I would mention our prebuy from Fremantle of the documentary series Enslaved (6x52') starring Samuel L. Jackson. This association with a major international co-production on a strong societal and historical subject, rooted in the past and yet still relevant today, enables us to fulfil the channel's mission: to provide keys of understanding. We are particularly proud of the many awards the series has won at international festivals.
Despite the COVID-19 context, we have maintained all of our commitments with the will to support our partners. 


Be inventive! What new strategies are you looking to develop in order to attract international partners as well as provide engaging content in 2021/2022?  

For several years now, the two channels have been accompanying the evolution of consumption modes, from linear to de-linear, by offering long replay rights of up to 60 or 90 days. An active presence of both channels on YouTube and social networks is also essential.
On the innovation side, after having developed a substantial VR offer, we are now launching numerous podcast formats to further strengthen the channels' notoriety and exposure. As an example, this is the case for the documentary collection co-produced by Histoire TV and TF1 Production, narrated by Gilles Bouleau and soon available in 6 podcasts, or the podcast version of the Ushuaïa TV magazine En Terre ferme, which will be launched in a few weeks.    

Be aware! To that extent, what will make a good documentary pitch/encounter for your organisation this June? What’s the best way to reach out and start co-creating?

To make our channels essential, we are looking for premium and ambitious content, most of which is new and exclusive. This will enable us to showcase it on our channels through a major editorial work, events and a strong incarnation. We favour projects with an original angle or treatment that distinguishes Histoire TV and Ushuaïa TV from other documentary channels.
To explain our editorial lines and our expectations, we will propose a presentation followed by an exchange with the teams of the two channels during this edition of Sunny Side of the Doc, on Wednesday, June 23rd.   

Be inspired! Who would you want to put on the spotlight at Sunny Side of the Doc 2021, for some well-earned recognition? And why?

Quite simply, all the employees of the two channels who work passionately every day to offer the best content to our viewers. But also, all our producer and distributor partners with whom we have built a long-term relationship of trust and partnership. This privileged relationship has been essential in recent months. I am looking forward to exchanging with them during the Sunny Side of the Doc!    

France  |  StorytellingMatters  |  documentary  |  Interview  |  #SSD21  |  Storytelling Matters  |  Sunny side of the Doc 2021  |  HISTOIRE TV  |  Ushuaïa TV  |  TF1



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