TF1 falters as M6 aud share rises

Gallic adcasters fight for share; fear effect of DTT entry

PARIS — Shares in Gallic commercial broadcaster M6 rose Tuesday, riding high on a hike in audience figures, while market leader TF1 saw its share price fall on disappointing first-quarter results.

TF1 reported lower than expected net profit of $76.55 million, down 14.1% on the first quarter of last year, and said it expected ad revenues for the first semester of this year to fall slightly.

First quarter operating profit also slid 15.9% to a below-forecast $123.7 million, on previously published revenues of $881.5 million, up 0.1%.

The company, which boasts more than a 50% share of French TV advertising, earlier this year predicted a 3%-4% growth in ad coin for 2005, a forecast it refused to confirm last month.

TF1 blamed the disappointing figure on a one-off 13% rise in program costs for the period, notably on new one-off dramas such as “In the Mind of the Killer,” and new episodes of long running series and reality programs.

Its audience share for the first four months fell 0.2% to 32.1%.

Company said it would rein in spending on programming from 3.9% for the whole year to 3%.

TF1’s share price stood at $27.09 Tuesday, falling several percent since it announced Friday that it would publish its results three weeks ahead of schedule.

Meanwhile, news that M6’s audience share was up to 13.7% for the month of May from 12% last year caused its share price to rise 0.8% to $25.24 Tuesday.

Web benefited from perfs of a new run of its reality skein “La Nouvelle Star,” another airing of the first “Star Wars” movie and a docu about Hitler. Also, at the same time last year, TF1 was riding high with the ratings beating “Celebrity Farm.”

Both broadcasters are bracing themselves for the impact of the recent launch of digital terrestrial television in France. Technology has more than doubled the six terrestrial channels that two-thirds of French homes received previously; eventually, there will be more than 30 channels.

More than 400,000 digital boxes have been sold since DTT launched in France at the end of March.