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No. 34: TF1

Paris

Revenue: $2.11 billion

Profit: $232.6 million

Having enjoyed a stupendous 2000 in revenue terms, France’s leading free-to-air private web continued to hold its own admirably in the first half of 2001, bucking a downward advertising trend and upping its revenues 8.6%.

Despite a ratings war with rival web M6, TF1’s advertising revenues still grew by 0.2%, in a market that shrank by 3.4%. That’s because the web continues to enjoy a huge audience share by other broadcasters’ standards, more than 32%. In the first half of the year, 48 of France’s top 50 shows aired on TF1.

But thanks to M6’s reality skein “Loft Story,” TF1’s market share dipped a few percentage points earlier this year and had execs at TF1 vowing that such an outrage wouldn’t happen again.

The web made a preemptive strike in June by unveiling a $300 million deal with Europe’s reality TV giant Endemol, via which TF1 will have a first look at any new formats the company invents. Under the deal, the pan-European TV production group will provide TF1 with a new reality show every year for five years.

TF1 also renewed its order with Endemol, the web’s biggest provider of shows, with about 30 primetime programs for the web annually as well as fare for other dayparts.

Another canny deal by the TF1 group was the acquisition of Canal Plus’ stake in Eurosport, giving TF1 sole ownership of Europe’s leading pan-European sports channel.

But TF1’s core business continues to dominate, and when it comes to hanging on to its market lead, the web has more than reality to fear. The next challenge will be adopting the right strategy for the introduction of digital terrestrial TV, due to reach Gallic small screens by the end of 2002. The new technology will up the number of channels from six to 36.

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