By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

After nine years in Saint-Tropez, TV France International is moving its 13th annual Le Rendez-Vous French TV Screenings, which will take place September 3-7, north to Biarritz, a seaside town near the Spanish border in southwestern France, known as one of the surfing capitals of Europe.

“We had to move to accommodate an increasing number of participants,” said Mathieu Bejot, managing director of TV France International. More than 240 buyers have already confirmed attendance at the market — a marked increase from last year’s 200 — representing more than 120 channels from 40 countries. In addition, 54 French exhibitors will also be on hand to meet and greet television executives from all over the globe. Le Rendez-Vous is the first European television market of the fall season, as well as a key event for French exporters hoping to shore up programming for their yearly slates.

“We are very excited to change the venue,” said Bejot, who is eager for participants to see the market’s bigger, better locale. “We’re delighted to welcome this record number of buyers.” He also wanted to assure participants worried that the larger accommodations would somehow change the event that this was not the case. “At the same time, we want to make sure that, while it keeps growing in terms of attendance and business, Le Rendez-Vous maintains its distinct flavor.”

There seems to be no danger of the conference losing that flavor. Le Rendez-Vous has long been known for the high quality of its screenings. A completely digital video library allows buyers to access vast quantities of French programs. “Buyers no longer need to line up to borrow tapes,” said Bejot, harkening back to the videotape days of yesteryear in which buyers had to painstakingly rewind tapes after they finished watching a show, and then queue up to return them. It was a tedious and lengthy process that everyone is glad has been usurped by a technologically advanced system. “Programs can be browsed through or screened thoroughly according to everyone’s needs. As a result, there are now three times as many screenings — around 9,000 — as there used to be.”

Bejot went on to say that: “The priority given to screenings and to programs is a definite bonus [at Le Rendez-Vous]. We also benefit from being a focused market, which allows for intensive business meetings and socializing at the same time.”

Though the conference is in its 13th year, it has been steadily growing. The 2006 event saw sales representatives from 54 French production and distribution companies who presented a record 785 programs — up 15 percent from the previous year. The 2005 market drew 216 television executives (up 20 percent from 175 in 2004), who represented 118 broadcasters in 47 countries. The 2005 event also pulled in representatives from 42 French production and distribution firms.

“Our aim is to provide buyers and sellers with the best business environment, including top screenings facilities and business meetings conducted in a casual, friendly atmosphere,” concluded Bejot.