DTT debuts in France

Number of free terrestrial channels climbs to 14

PARIS — French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin flicked the switch to launch digital terrestrial TV in Gaul, one of the last major European territories to receive it, Thursday evening.

DTT swells the number of free terrestrial channels available to French auds from six to 14, for the $130 price of a digital set-top box.

Nine of the webs exist already as terrestrial or cable and satellite channels. Five newcomers include Direct8, the industrial group Bollore’s first foray into the TV biz; youth-orientated pubcaster France 4; W9, a music channel belonging to terrestrial web M6; the AB Group’s general interest channel NT1; and NRJ12, a web owned by the radio group NRJ that will air music programming and series.

The channels will be France’s first new terrestrial webs in 10 years and, with two-thirds of French homes not subscribing to pay TV, optimism is high that free-to-air DTT could do well.

DTT pay channels are due to launch later this year or early next.

Only 35% of the population can receive DTT now, a figure that should rise to 65% by the end of the year.

Digital TV for All, an association of pubcaster France Televisions and some of the new digital channel owners, hopes a million homes will have set-top boxes by the end of the year.

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