New channels expect to make big impact in France

Mipcom 2012: Territory Reports - France

The French TV landscape is about to expand with the arrival of six new digital terrestrial television channels by year-end, and the entry of Canal Plus Group into the free-to-air market with two nets.

Rival commercial broadcasters TF1 and M6 will each launch a new DTT channel in December: TF1’s HD1, dedicated to fiction, and M6’s family-focused 6Ter.

Meanwhile, independent outfits such as NextRadioTV and NRJ Group are thriving and are now consolidating. NRJ is about to bow femme-skewed Cherie HD and NextRadio TV will roll out documentary channel RMC Decouverte. New indie players include sports channel L’Equipe TV and TVous La Diversite, dedicated to programs about social issues.

Canal Plus’ free channels Direct 8 and Direct Star, formerly owned by Bollore Group, are expected to make a big impact on ratings and advertising, thanks to an ambitious lineup of high-profile pics, exclusive series and TV mags hosted by some of France’s most popular journos.

In spite of the competitive landscape, terrestrial broadcasters, including TF1, M6, pubster France Televisions and paybox Canal Plus, have been holding up in terms of ratings and advertising.

Over the first half of 2012, these channels repped an estimated 65% share of ratings, while advertising revenue was stable at $4.4 billion. The advertising revenue for DTT, cable and satellite operators was up 10% to $2.9 billion over the same period, according to Francois Lienart, head of Yacast’s advertising monitoring.

TF1 remains a ratings leader in Europe, bolstered by its slate of American shows, long-running French series and major sports events.

Over the first semester, TF1 scored an average of 23% market share and its ad revs were up 3%, according to Mediametrie. It’s lost just seven points since 2005, when only seven TV channels were available in France, per Mediametrie’s Jean Pierre Panzani.

American skeins are still much favored by Gallic auds. TF1 series “House,” “CSI: NY” and “CSI” nabbed six slots out of the 10 best fiction ratings in 2011.

STRENGTHS: With the arrival of digital players such as Netflix, iTunes and Lovefilm imminent in Gaul, local broadcasters have been working hard to boost their offerings of exclusive content and ramp up original programming. Canal Plus kicked off the trend years ago and now has a large catalog of top-rated French skeins like “Spiral” that have sold worldwide. Other Gallic nets are now following the paybox’s trail.
WEAKNESSES: Analysts say Gaul’s DTT market has reached maturity and predict the six additional channels might eventually hurt terrestrial channels, particularly TF1 and M6, by nabbing significant ratings share and ad revenues from them. Industryites fear the fragmentation of the TV landscape could impact the local film and TV biz since these terrestrial nets must invest a percentage of their revenues in French content.

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