Aloft the ratings, French web M6 adding to ‘Story’

Reality TV snowballs internationally

PARIS – France’s reality wars show no signs of abating: M6, France’s second private free-to-air web, disclosed Monday that it will air another “Big Brother”-style “Loft Story” series in early 2002.

The first “Loft Story,” screened earlier this year, caused French ratings mayhem. Record auds tuned in to M6, leaving leading web TF1 and pubcaster France 2 trailing behind.

France’s first brush with reality TV also helped M6 up profits 34.3% in the first half of 2001 as other webs’ profits were sliding.

Channel topper Nicolas de Tavernost told analysts in Paris that the success of “Loft Story” was no fluke but the fruit of a conscious effort on M6’s part to “be the first” in reality TV in France.

M6 is working on other reality formats, and the exec promised that there would be “no creative taboos.”

In the meantime, reality-hungry auds can take their pick between the webs’ rival talent-spotting formats, TF1’s “Star Academy” and M6’s “Pop Stars.”

Separately, Endemol Entertainment South Africa is planning a series to rival “Big Brother” – now in its third week in South Africa and the most popular show around.

“Savages” will drop people in the middle of the African bush. Participants have to acquire the skills they need to need to survive – although an experienced ranger is on hand to see they don’t come to harm.

The production house is staging a two-week trial using volunteers, and their progress is being monitored on a Web site.

(Bryan Pearson in Johannesburg contributed to this report).

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