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France 24 attracts 3 million to site

Round the clock news channel bids to challenge CNN

PARIS — France 24, Gaul’s fledgling round-the-clock international news channel, notched up 3 million visitors to its Web site to the end of 2006, twice as many as expected, and outperformed CNN’s Web site is some parts of the world.

In the same period, a TNS Sofres sample survey of 500 opinion leaders in France, U.K., Italy, Senegal and Algeria showed that 20%-40% had looked at the TV channel, which went live Dec. 6, at least once.

Announcing the figures, Alain de Pouzilhac, France 24’s chairman, said on Monday, “I’m not happy with those figures, I’m over the moon.”

Positive audience figures are just what France 24 needs to help it win new friends ahead of France’s presidential elections later this year, when incumbent President Jacques Chirac, the venture’s powerful supporter, will probably leave office.

On Monday, De Pouzilhac talked up France 24’s Internet performance in countries like Japan, where, despite the small numbers, it received more visitors than CNN — 219,000 to CNN’s 203,000.

“I think we are profiting from the credibility problems CNN has had because of the Iraq war,” De Pouzilhac opined. “People want to see how we report the news.”

In the U.K. and Germany, France 24 on the Web was third placed after CNN and BBC World, but ahead of Al Jazeera, while in the U.S. it was fourth placed.

A private-public joint venture between TF1 and France Televisions, France 24 is financed with public funding but under French regs is allowed to carry nine minutes of advertising an hour.

In 2008, the web is aiming to make Euros 15 million ($19.3 million) in advertising revenue, De Pouzilhac said.

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