Soccer helps TF1 strengthen position

All of France’s terrestrial webs except France 3 saw audience share fall slightly in 2006, although TF1, down 0.7% to 31.6%, strengthened its hold on primetime with a kick from soccer.

TF1, France’s leading commercial web, aired 98 of the top 100 most watched shows, one more than in 2005, and its average primetime audience was up 300,000 to 7.4 million — the biggest since 1994.

The soccer World Cup handed TF1 the first eight of the top 10 slots. The July 5 semifinal between France and Portugal grabbed the top slot with 22.2 million viewers.

In ninth place was another soccer match, a Euro 2008 elimination-round contest between France and Italy.

In 10th and 11th places were cult comedy films “Les Bronzes font du ski” and “Les Bronzes.”

Top Gallic drama was “Marie Besnard,” based on a real-life murder case.

The only U.S. presence in the top 20 was 16th-place “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

However, “CSI: Miami” made it into several slots in France’s TV top 50, as the best-performing episode grabbed 35th position with 10.3 million viewers.

Behind TF1, pubcaster France 2 saw its audience share dip 0.6% to 19.2%, France 3 was stable at 14.7%, and commercial web M6 edged down 0.1% to 12.5%.

Paybox Canal Plus’ average audience dipped 0.2% to 3.4%.

The average French viewer watched a little less TV in 2006, down for the first time in a decade by two minutes to three hours, 34 minutes, according to figures published by audience research org Mediametrie.

Average viewing time had been steadily rising, gaining more than half an hour since 1996.

The latest two-minute dip is statistically insignificant unless it is followed by another decline in 2007, a Mediametrie rep said.

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