Broadcasters continue to lose audiences

PARIS — France’s largest private broadcaster TF1 achieved an unprecedented full sweep of the top 100 program slots in 2007.

But it still saw a 0.9% decline in audience share over 2006, from 31.6% to 30.7%.

All the country’s terrestrial broadcasters continued to lose audiences last year, according to the latest figures from audience measurement specialists Mediametrie.

TF1, whose audience share fell 0.7% from 2005 to 2006, appointed a new artistic director of fiction on Dec. 27 after an unusually high number of locally made drama series flopped in 2007.

The year’s most-watched events on TF1 included the Oct. 13 Rugby World Cup semifinal between England and France, which drew 18.3 million viewers for an audience share of 67.4%, and the two primetime debates between the presidential candidate finalists Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal in May, which averaged more than 9.5 million viewers, a 37.4% share.

TF1 managed a yearly jump in average primetime viewership of 200,000 to 7.6 million, the biggest since 1992.

Rival commercial broadcaster M6’s aud share fell from 12.5% to 11.5%.

Pubcaster France 2’s aud share fell 1.1% on the year from 19.2% to 18.1%, despite the success of several of its historical drama series, such as “Chez Maupassant,” which peaked at an audience share of 31.6% on March 6.

France 3’s aud share fell 0.6% from 14.7% to 14.1% in spite of the continued success of its primetime runs of American drama series like “Cold Case” and “Without a Trace.”

Echoing analysts, a Mediametrie rep attributed the across-the-board declines to the very strong growth in 2007 of alternative sources, including digital terrestrial TV, local and regional channels and pay TV webs. These alternative offerings rose by a largely higher than expected 3.7% on the year, from a market share of 13.8% to 17.5%.

Around 85% of the country should have digital terrestrial TV access by the end of 2008.

In December, satellite TV provider the AB Group launched a low-cost bundle, giving viewers a choice of providers for the first time since Canal Plus’ merger with TPS in 2005.

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