‘Secret Story’ brings in big audiences

'Big Brother' spin-off a hit for TF1

Leading commercial web TF1 drew 4.9 million viewers, a 30.1% audience share, Saturday night with the first episode of Endemol’s “Big Brother” spin-off “Secret Story,” six years after rival web M6 scored a hit with “Loft Story,” the Gallic version of “BB.”

TF1 hailed the result as a “clear success” even though some of France’s least successful reality skeins got off to a stronger start.

The show was watched by 47.7% of 15- to 34-year-olds. Pubcaster France 2 came in second place with 4.25 million viewers, a 22% audience share, for long-running gameshow “Fort Boyard.”

Although its premise is slightly different — the candidates each have a secret that the other participants have to discover — “Secret Story” shares many things with “Loft Story,” the show that introduced the French to reality TV, including the same producer, Endemol, and the same presenter, Benjamin Castaldi.

Its title and logo — an eye — also inspire a feeling of deja vu.

When “Loft Story” first aired, a coup for M6, TF1’s then topper Patrick Le Lay described the show as “pornographic” and vowed to keep his channel a reality-free zone.

TF1 has changed its tack since then. Talent-spotting format “Star Academy” and “Koh Lanta,” a French adaptation of “Survivor,” are two of its most popular shows.

M6 head Nicolas de Tavernost claimed in an interview that Endemol had pitched “Secret Story” to him first, but he’d turned it down. “ ‘Loft Story’ is behind us,” the topper said.

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