Operating profit at web fell 16.4%

Expenditure on World Cup soccer rights dented TF1’s finances in the first half of 2006, with profits falling 2.9% to e171.5 million ($219.5 million) on revenues up 7% to $1.8 billion, the company announced Tuesday.

Operating profit at France’s leading commercial web fell 16.4% to $267.2 million.

TF1 attributed most of the decrease — $115.2 million out of $143.3 million — to the sports event, which drew record viewing figures.

Ad revenues for the period rose 4.8% to $1.2 billion.

Non-core businesses saw 13.7% growth in revenues to $592 million.

TF1 predicted a 3.5%-4% increase in advertising revenues for the full year, in line with forecasts for the overall French TV ad market, while non-core businesses should replicate their first-half performance.

Smaller rival web M6, which also held some World Cup soccer rights, posted a profit of $128.6 million for the first half, on revenues of $849.6 million. Ad revs repped $449.8 million.

The $34.5 million the channel spent on soccer rights, which drove up programming costs by 27.6% to some $207.8 million, cut into operating profit, down 7.9% to $155.9 million.

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