You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TF1 at 40: Network Invests in Fresh Talent and Concepts

For decades, TF1 was best known for its stable of high-rating yet aging French TV dramas like “Navarro,” “Julie Lescaut” and “Josephine Guardian Angels,” but shortly after Nonce Paolini took the reins in 2007, the network started shaking up its French fiction slate, investing in fresh talent and concepts. TF1’s wake-up call came in 2008, when local media reports showed that nearly all of France’s top-rated series were American, notably “House” and the “CSI” franchise.

“These American shows revolutionized the tastes of audiences and forced TF1 to push its limits,” says Fabrice Bailly, who was appointed head of programs in 2012. But while U.S. imports are still crucial to draw large audiences to TF1, the network has ramped up its local drama skeins for the past six years with police shows such as “Falco” and “Profilage,” and dramedy series like “Clem,” about a teenage-girl-next-door raising a child with her parents. And auds have turned up to watch these new skeins.

Launched in 2009, “Profilage” is France’s best-rated series, attracting up to 8.6 million viewers, a 31% share.

As part of its brand identity, TF1 has kept a strong emphasis on social and family themes, but it’s also started to bend the codes of cop shows, notably with characters that are more complex. “Falco” centers around a police lieutenant who returns to work after spending 20 years in a coma; “Profilage” boasts a strong female protagonist: s a psychologist who specializes in solving crimes. Police series, such as Luc Besson’s “No Limit,” starring Vincent Elbaz as a clumsy special agent juggling his ex-wife and temperamental teenage daughter, are also getting a shot of comedy.

“We’ve tried to be more daring, to adapt to the taste of audiences, which have become sophisticated, but we’re also making sure to have characters that express positive values,” says Bailly. “As a free-to-air network, TF1 can’t air series that are as purely dark-edged and gritty as pay-TV shows.”

The network has also reached out to international talent and moved into English-language series production.

TF1 recently partnered up with American novelist Harlan Coben (the bestseller “Tell No One” is among his titles) on “No Second Chance,” a drama-procedural series toplining Alexandra Lamy. Her character suffers a blackout after getting attacked and wakes up to find out that her husband has been killed and her daughter has disappeared.

“No Second Chance” marks the first French TV adaptation of a book by Coben, and the author’s first time as showrunner.

“TF1 jumped on board and they gave us a lot of freedom. We all know exactly the kind of stories we want to tell, we want to keep people in suspense, we want to stir their pulse, but we also want that warmth, we want that family feeling and we want to break their heart also,” says Coben.

Although not as aggressive and high profile as paybox Canal Plus in fiction programming — “The Tunnel,” “The Returned” — TF1 does have some pull for international talent like Coben because it can attract about 8 million or 9 million viewers on primetime.

“I can’t think of a network in the U.S. that gets the kind of audience that TF1 gets,” points out Coben.

Through fiction dramas like “No Second Chance,” Bailly says TF1 is looking to create events, position the network as a premium brand and renew the network’s audience.

TF1 has also benefited from the crossing over of Gallic film talent like Jean-Paul Rouve and Mathilde Seigner into the TV world.

Banking on the rising profile of French dramas, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels, the net’s commercial branch, has also started acquiring more of them to sell in international markets.

“Profilage,” for instance, has sold to more than 70 territories and currently airs in 27 countries. In Germany, which already has a powerful local TV industry, “Profilage” (renamed“Profilage Paris”) pulled a healthy 11% market share on Sat.1. The show is also the third-most watched series on the German VOD platform Maxdome, surpassing “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead.”

More TV

  • '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke

    '9-1-1' Billboard Vandalized With Anti-Beto O'Rourke Message

    A billboard for the Fox procedural “9-1-1” on Pico Blvd., adjacent to the studio lot, has been vandalized with an anti-Beto O’Rourke message, Variety has learned. The imagery was put up by a politically conservative man who goes by ‘Sabo.’ The promotional art for the series featured on the billboars shows a car wreck sticking out [...]

  • Ryan Phillippe

    Ryan Phillippe to Lead CBS Pilot 'Alive'

    Ryan Phillippe has been cast in the lead role in the upcoming CBS pilot, “Alive,” Variety has learned. The project was formerly called “Frankenstein.” The “Cruel Intentions” star will play Mark Escher, a San Francisco police investigator who was presumed dead after an attack and destructive fire at his home. Six months later, he shockingly reappears [...]

  • Anya Taylor-Joy

    Anya Taylor-Joy to Star in 'The Queen's Gambit' Limited Series at Netflix

    Netflix has put out an order for a new limited series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Variety has learned. Based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name, the six-episode show will be set during the Cold War era and will follow orphan chess prodigy Beth Harmon (Taylor-Joy) from the age of eight to [...]

  • Lucy Liu

    Lucy Liu's 'Unsung Heroes' in Development at ABC Studios International

    ABC Studios International has put anthology series “Unsung Heroes,” executive produced by Lucy Liu and Ruthanne Secunda, into development. The scripted show will tell the “untold stories of incredible women who overcame adversity to become pioneers of their time,” showcasing highly accomplished women who were not acknowledged for their achievements during their time. The first [...]

  • stream march madness 2019 online free

    NCAA Tournament: How to Stream March Madness Online

    The rankings are in, and the 68-team field is set. March Madness is officially upon us, and if you want to catch the action from home, from the office, or on-the-go, there are a couple ways to stream March Madness online for free. The first game kicks off today, and the tournament runs until April [...]

  • High Maintenance Renewed Season 2

    HBO Renews 'High Maintenance' for Fourth Season

    Half-hour pot comedy “High Maintenance,” created by Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, has been renewed for a fourth season, announced HBO. Starring Sinclair, the premium cable comedy follows him as the Guy, a nameless drug dealer in Brooklyn whose business allows viewers a look into a cross-section of New Yorkers and their stories. HBO describes [...]

  • David Simon Rips Hollywood Agencies Over

    David Simon Rips Hollywood Agencies Over Packaging: 'It Is Theft. It Is Fraud'

    David Simon is urging the Writers Guild of America to file a lawsuit against the four biggest Hollywood talent agencies and the Association of Talent Agents over the practice of packaging. “I’m for filing a civil suit against the ATA and the Big Four for an overt and organized breach of fiduciary duty in which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content