TF1 adds theme-based webs

Gaul b'caster to add to 'Net ventures

PARIS — TF1, France’s leading terrestrial broadcaster, will add two more cable and satellite channels to its growing stable of theme-based services.

In addition, company chairman Patrick Le Lay said Wednesday, TF1 will significantly boost its Internet activities, adding at least five new Web sites this year under its eTF1 banner and repositioning eTF1 as an Internet service provider.

With profits rising 47% in 1999 to $160 million, TF1 has defied the naysayers who prophesied the slow demise of the old terrestrial powerhouses as they faced up to competition from theme-based channels.

But TF1 vice chairman Etienne Mougeotte tacitly admitted that as the variety of channels grows, networks like TF1 will see a drop in viewers. To compensate, TF1 has been developing its own satellite and cable services.

The latest additions, launching this year, are the tentatively titled TFX and financial web La Chaine Financiere (LCF).

According to Le Lay, TFX will be up and running by November, with an initial budget of about 90 million francs ($13.4 million). Primarily featuring series and film, the channel will be mostly financed by advertising.

LCF is set to bow late this year or early in 2001 with a budget of $7.4 million. Editorial policy will center on advising viewers on money issues.

With TFX and LCF, TF1 will have interests in 12 theme-based channels. The group wholly owns news channel LCI, docu specialist Odyssee and home-shopping web Shopping Avenue; it also has a 34% stake in Eurosport and 25% stakes in four film channels, Teletoon and sports service Infosport.

On the Internet front, TF1 plans to invest some $22 million this year.