TFI profits shoot skyward

Ad revs up 10%

PARIS — France’s leading terrestrial broadcaster, TF1, has reported a whopping 47% rise in profits for 1999.

In a statement released late Wednesday, TF1 said preliminary results for last year showed profits standing at just over 1 billion francs ($169 million) on revenues of $1.96 billion.

Advertising revenue was up 10% at $1.4 billion, while the group’s diversification divisions, which include video distribution, home shopping, music and publishing, recorded a 15.5% increase in revs at $532 million.

Of its various cable and sat channels, all-news service LCI now has 3 million subscribers and has finally hit breakeven.

Broadcasting holds its own

The core broadcasting business is as healthy as ever, despite increasing competition from satellite and cable channels and digital platforms. TF1 notched up 95 of the top 100 audiences in 1999, and its market share of the critical women-under-50 sector is holding at 37.4%.

While the group has singularly failed to expand beyond France, chairman Patrick Le Lay has thrown his full weight behind the Internet. The generalist tf1.fr portal attracted 1.9 million visitors in 1999, and Le Lay has set up a subsid, regrouping TF1’s Internet activities under the brand name e-tf1. A news site already exists, and vertical portals aimed at women, youth, sports and finance are in the pipeline.

One outstanding question is whether Le Lay will succeed in upping TF1’s 25% share in digital platform Television Par Satellite (TPS). It’s known that he wants to, but so far hasn’t been able to pry the stakes out of other shareholders. TPS claimed 815,000 subscribers at the end of the year but is still a fair way off from making a profit.

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