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M6 has got a secret

No. 2 French net hints at gameshow plans

PARIS — M6, France’s No. 2 private free TV web, unveiled aggressive plans Thursday to take on its bigger rival, TF1, on the gameshow front.

A day after TF1 said it would be bringing “Survivor” to French television, M6 chief Nicolas de Tavernost revealed that his network had a secret reality gamer in the pipeline. Refusing to divulge any more about the show, Tavernost, who was reportedly outbid for “Survivor,” quipped that M6’s show “will have a French name.”

At a press conference to unveil the channel’s fall sked, de Tavernost also revealed that it will air a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” takeoff, following the huge success of the format launched in France on TF1 in July.

Pointing out that M6 emerged in 1999 as France’s No. 2 channel for those under 50, de Tavernost pronounced, “We are at an important turning point in our ambitions to be a national channel.” He had earlier boasted, “Our days of being the little channel are over.”

Playing catch-up

But M6 still has a lot of catching up to do. While TF1 made profits of 160 million euros ($142.8 million) on revenues of $1.65 billion in 1999, M6 saw profits of $68.7 million on revenues of $561.4 million.

M6 has a few things to be smug about, however. In addition to a batch of new programs — the channel is spending $71 million on production, including $21 million on French fiction — the fall lineup features an M6 first, the French TV premiere of a Bond film, “Tomorrow Never Dies.”

Its U.S. programming includes shows like “Ally McBeal” and “Sex and the City.”

In terms of its investment in French movie production, M6 is reveling in the local box office success of Dominique Moll’s low-budget pic “Harry: He’s Here to Help,” which has raked in nearly $4 million in its first two weeks on French screens.

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