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Digital terrestrial flourishes in France

Quarter of viewers can get free DTT

MADRID — Marking a bullish takeup for free digital terrestrial television in France, 24% of French TV viewers can now access free DTT via decoder devices, according to a report published Wednesday by French audience measurement org Mediametrie.

Non-pay DTT decoder auds grew from 9.8 million at the end of March to 13.6 million at the end of November, Mediametrie estimates.

Figures are in line with other estimations.

U.K. market analysis publication Screen Digest puts current overall penetration for DTT at 25% for primary TV set households in France, and 32%-33% for all TV households.

Several factors are at play, driving healthy penetration.

“Launched 2005, French DTT is multi-tiered, including free, pay and premium services, so it covers all the bases. The free tranche of 18 channels also includes dedicated DTT channels,” said Guy Bisson, a senior analyst at Screen Digest.

Free DTT audiences are still dominated by the flagship channels of incumbent French broadcasters.

Commercial TV station TF1, for instance, took a 28.9% share of auds in DTT decoder homes, and a 29.3% of viewers on households with DTT-equipped TV sets.

But channels available exclusively on DTT are making a promising showing.

Youth-skewed DTT-only channel W9, owned by broadcaster M6, took 3.6% of free DTT-decoder households in November, while Gulli, a Lagardere/France Television children’s channel, came in with 3.5%.

Tele Monte Carlo, the TF1/AB Group-backed general entertainment channel, took a 3.7% share of DTT-decoder households last month.

“Year-for-year DTT in France has grown faster than the U.K.’s Freeview. In terms of service and position, it’s been relatively well managed by the CSA regulator,” said Bisson.

DTT HD TV services from late 2008, plus new regs forcing TV sets to integrate DTT-accessibility from the beginning of next year, should continue to drive DTT takeup as France builds for a November 2011 analog TV switchoff.

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