TF1 to bow digital channel, spinoffs

Weblet to target 15-25-year-old market

PARIS — French television group TF1 has announced plans to launch a new general interest digital channel within the next two years. The weblet, which has yet to be named, would target the 15-25-year-old market.

Speaking in Paris, TF1 chairman Patrick Le Lay said that he also planned to unfold spinoff thematic channels in the near future. Le Lay said TF1’s digital projects include a new children’s channel, an adolescent channel, a doc channel and a sports channel. The company already has stakes in pan-European sports operation Eurosport, all-news channel LCI and docu service Odyssee.

By launching a youth-oriented generalist channel, TF1 will find itself in head-to-head competition with M6. Both companies have 25% stakes in the Television Par Satellite (TPS) digital platform, and M6 has traditionally positioned itself as appealing to a younger audience. Le Lay noted laconically, “Life is made up of competition, and TPS is a neutral distribution platform.”

Current estimates are that TPS will hit 700,000 subscribers by the end of the year and will hit breakeven in 2001 when Le Lay hopes to have 1.2 million subscribers signed up.

Upbeat results

Le Lay’s statement followed hot on the heals of upbeat results for the first half of the year, which saw profits rise 52% to $95 million. TF1 shares roared up on Tuesday in the wake of the results announcement, closing at $182, a 9.2% increase. Since the start of the year, TF1 stock has risen by 62%.

While the group is primarily targeting the Gallic market, Le Lay confirmed that talks continue with Italian pubcaster RAI on the idea of TF1 taking a stake in the long-talked-about digital alliance between RAI and Telecom Italia.

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