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Gauls tie for tube

TF1, M6 wed to create new web, bulk up

PARIS — TF1, France’s No. 1 private network, and its smaller rival M6 have sprung a surprise on the French broadcasting world by joining forces to launch TF6, a new general interest channel.

The two had been developing competing projects aimed at viewers under 50 before deciding to pool their resources in a single channel destined for cable, satellite and eventually, digital terrestrial television. With a budget estimated at 150 million francs ($20.1 million), the jointly owned TF6 will be up and running later this year, the two networks announced Friday.

Soaping up

M6’s 100% owned sudser web Serie Club will also be included in the venture, although the rest of the two groups’ respective theme-based channels will continue to be run separately.

The TF6 partnership resolves a number of problems for both TF1 and M6.

While allowing them to split costs, it also helps both out of a dilemma stemming from an article of French broadcasting law that prevents a single company from owning more than 49% of a terrestrially broadcast channel.

The much criticized law effectively bars a wide array of existing theme channels, currently shown on cable and satellite, from going terrestrial when France makes the switch in 2002.

But there are other reasons why arch rivals TF1 and M6, owned 42% by the RTL group, have seen fit to get into bed together at this time. In a blunt assertion of the underlying power struggle shaping up within French broadcasting, M6 chief Nicolas de Tavernost told Agence France Presse that the companies preferred to “add rather than subtract” their strengths.

“We are up against a giant — Vivendi Universal,” de Tavernost said.

The two free TV companies are each 25% shareholders in TPS, France’s second satellite platform. They are still in competition with each other on a number of other fronts, such as Internet access.

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