80. TF1 S.A.
Revenues 2016: € 2.063 billion
The core of the TF1 media company is the TF1 television station – the private channel sporting the most viewers in all of Europe that emerged from the national station RTF. On top of that, TF1 also operates quite a few niche-channels on PAY-TV platforms and owns the Pan-European sports channel Eurosport.
1, quai du pont du jour
95656 Boulogne, Cedex/ France
Branches: Free TV, Pay TV, Satellite TV, TV Production, TV Stations and Licensing, Marketing of Advertising Time, Internet Services
Legal Form: Public Company
Financial Year: 01/01 - 12/31
Founding Year: 1947 Foundation of the Radio-Télévision Français (RTF), 1974 TF1 as successor of RTF, 1987 Privatization.
Executives and Officers
- Gilles Pelisson, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
- Olivier ABECASSIS, Vice President, Innovation and Digital
- Ara Aprikian, Executive Vice President, Content
- Christine Bellin, Vice President, Strategy, Development and Transformation
- Arnaud Bosom, Executive Vice President, Human Resources and CSR
- Jean-Michel Counillon, Corporate Secretary
- Philippe Denery, Executive Vice President, Finance and Procurement
- Frédéric Ivernel, Vice President, Communication and Brands
- Régis Ravanas, Executive Vice President, Advertising & Diversification
- Thierry Thuillier, Executive Vice President of News
TF1 remains the uncontested number one on the French TV landscape and is the European channel with the highest viewers count by a mile (In the first quarter of 2010, TF1 had a market share of 25,1 % of viewers above the age of four, outranking Rai1 (21,9%) and BBC1 (20,7%). With a market share of 24,5 % (2010), TF1 not only disposes of the most successful formats – 97 out of 100 of the most successful programs in France in 2010 were broadcasted on TF1 – but also exerts a considerable influence on public opinion and discussion. The station's history is closely linked with the country's political and administrative elite. TF1 emerged from the former primary program, which has been regarded as an extended arm of the political body ever since Gaulle. To this day, the government has not managed to rid itself of this particular taint.
In 1974, TF1 was hived off as a public sector station from the national holding ORTF. In 1987, the government privatised the channel and it was awarded to an entrepreneur who was no stranger to the authorities: Construction tycoon Francis Bouygues. His construction company had been working for the public sector for quiet a while and had an immense interest in diversifying its activities. After a heavy bidding war with the media company Lagardère, which was broadcasted live on TF1, Bouygues won the bid and now held 25% of TF1. Friendly investors were awarded the other 25% and the rest was listed on the stock market.
In 1988, the station started enacting its strategy of vertical integration. The Une Musique, TF1 Video and TF1 Enterprises branches marketed audio, video and programming rights. When the French cable networks and first and foremost the European satellite platforms extended in early 1990s, more possibilities opened up for TF1 and it launched two new niche channels, Eurosport ( founded in 1991 ), which merged with the Canal+ spin-off The European Sports Network two years later, plus the news channel LCI in 1994. At the same time the activities were extended, Bouygues could reinforce his control over TF1: A law issued in 1994, allowed the construction tycoon to increase his share to 34% and 41% subsequently.
The next step was a reaction to the expansion of the Pay TV channel Canal+. When it began challenging Eurosport on its satellite platform in 1996, TF1 decided to build up its own distribution channel. TF1 founded the satellite bouquet TPS, together with free TV competitor M6, the utilities company Lyonnaise des Eaux, France Télécom and the public France Télévision.
The focal point of further diversification measures had been to equip the platform with niche channels: The documentary channel Odyssée launched in 1997 and the Bretonic regional program TV Breizh started in 2000 – a pet project of the Bretonic head of the station Patrick Le Lay, who went as far as giving parts of his presentation before the licensing authority CSA in Breton. In 2001, TF1 could increase its control over TPS and took over the Eurosport shares of Canal+, acquired 50% of Série Club and launched the premium channel TPS Star (cinema and sport). With the payout of France Télécom and France Télévision, the group increased it TPS shares to 50% and as high as 66% in 2002. In 2001, the company took over all of the Eurosport shares. A few more stations followed, evidence of the strict diversification course: Youth channels Eureka, Boomerang and TFou (2003), the first homosexual TV station in France, Pink TV (2004), Ushuaia TV – a channel for sustainable development (March 2005).
The withdrawal happened on the 31st of August 2006. The French ministry of finance approved the merger between TPS and the competing platform CanalSat, that is, under exactly 59 conditions (For example: Some channels had to be made available to third-party providers: the newly formed Bouqet Canal+ France could only hold the rights to French films to a limited degree etc.). In January 2007, the merger was complete. De facto, it meant the end of TF1's ambitions on the satellite market. A development that had not come unexpected. TPS had always been the weaker competitor compared to Canal+ and the co-existence of both was not considered cost-effective. Similar models had failed in Spain, England, Italy and Poland long before. Appendix: In late November 2009, TF1 sold the remaining 9,9% of Canal+ France for 774 million Euro to Vivendi too.
Considerable progress in diversification, as other media groups in France had achieved successfully, failed to happen. TF1 might have taken over a minority share-hold of the production company and niche channel operator Groupe AB in April 2007 (33,5 % for 230 million €) and proudly announced holding the seventh place amongst the French 'Groupes Du Web', but TF1 still consisted more or less of only one channel since its mobile phone service foundered (while the competitor M6's mobile service enjoyed great success) and the satellite market was left for good. Apart from Eurosport, TF1 is barely present on the European market.
In early 2008, president Sarkozy announced the end of TV adverts on public channels. The abandoning of advertising after 8pm beginning on the 5th of January 2009, followed by a complete abolishment of advertising in 2011. This had frequently been considered a gift for his friend Martin Bouygues: TF1 only had to pick up the remaining advertising clients from France 2 or other affected channels, but that turned out to be a wrong assumption altogether. According to a study published on the 18.2.2009, the TF1 advertising revenues have decreased by 19% in the first six weeks following the advertising ban, allegedly by as much as 27% in the first quarter 2009. The economy magazine L'Expansion stated: Nobody else is suffering from the advertising crisis as much as TF1, not alone because of a botched pricing policy. Due to the decline in viewer numbers, the traditionally high TF1 advertising tariffs were losing ground rapidly. TF1 might still be the market leader but its star is sinking: In the first trimester of 2010, 25,1% of France's viewership tuned in to watch TF1. The lowest market share ever.
Then came the U-turn in the advertising-ban affair: In spring 2010, it became apparent what they Parisian national council would decide on the 16th of November. There would not be a complete absence of advertising for the time being. Advertising in public broadcast will be allowed before 8pm at least until 2014 (No change has been made to the edict that disallowed advertising after 8pm). A complete absence of advertising is “not in concordance with public finances”. TF1 demanded an immediate abolition of the compensation tax with which the private stations had been burdened since 2009 in order to compensate for the public stations' losses.
There had been much ado in the company's top floors in mid-2006, after two decades of personnel continuity. It was said that the old folks at the top of TF1 had missed the train leaving for the future and ignored the change in the basic foundation underlying the media business (emergence of Internet, digital technology). Martin Bouygues decided to ring in a “radical change of eras” (Le Figaro). Now, the “TF1 of the next 20 years” had to be invented.
Patrick Le Lay (*1942), Président-Directeur général of TF1 since 1988, withdrew into the position of chairman of the board of directors on the 22nd of May in 2007 (more or less an honorary position) and is now the president of the Serendipity investment fond (with Bouygues being one of the major share-holders). Another victim of the change of guard: Etienne Mougeotte (* 1940), head of TF1 programming since the privatisation in 1987 and as such the key figure in TF1's highly successful programming policy. He stepped down from his position as vice president of the TF1 group on the 6th of August and went to the Figaro Magazine. On the 20th of November 2007, he was named the Figaro group's directeur des rédactions.
Hence, since the 22nd of May 2007, a new and firm hand has been leading TF1: Directeur général Nonce Paolini (*1949). He also started out as a great unknown, just like construction engineer Patrick Le Lay when he assumed office in 1987. And just like Le Lay, Paolini is a chip off the old block, an epitome of the “Man of Bouygues”, a stranger in the world of glamorous television, without any close contacts or networks within the house of TF1, yet without any political loyalties either – for now. A few days prior to his coronation, it was reported that Laurent Solly (* 1970), ENA graduate (French Elite university for high-tier civil services), who had been partially responsible for Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential campaign and a complete greenhorn in all things television, would be named the deputy of Paolini. Resistance is futile. Majority share-holder Martin Bouygues is widely known to be a close friend of president Sarkozy (he was his best man when Sarkozy married Cécilia). As it had been pointed out before: The French government cannot cease to exert a degree of control over the medium par excellence. (see entry for France Télévisions).
All things considered, Paolini is not what one would consider the grand-scale TV ruler. He is neither an engineer nor an ENA-Alumni (or graduate of a similar elite institution), but he has a degree in literature and political sciences. He is called „l’incarnation du mystère“, a tactician and diplomat, firm but friendly. “He is definitely not a choir boy, he knows what he wants”, explains a former colleague. Another known piece of information: He is Corsican, but a republican, married with the Téléshopping-presenter Catherine Falgayrac and a passionate Jazz fan with a collection of more than 10.000 records.
Other notable changes: In early March 2008, head of programming Takis Candilis stepped down and went to Lagardère to become the Directeur général délégué of its production division. “There are no bad feelings between Paolini and myself nor had there ever been any.”, constituted Candilis shortly after his departure became known. He cited the welcome challenge of being a producer as his reason for leaving and the unsuccessful and swiftly cancelled in-house productions that were initiated by him allegedly held no significance in the matter (such as „L’Hôpital“, inspired by Grey's Anatomy). In fact, Candilis simply anticipated his expulsion.
All in all, the situation in the top ranks of personnel remains volatile. In June 2009, it was confirmed that TF1's editor-in-chief Jean-Claude Dassier (67) would be leaving the house to became the president of the premier league club Olympique Marseille. Dassier managed to dodge the big wave of expulsions in 2007/2008 that let go of many TF1 founding fathers and it seems he considered 2009 to be a good moment for a change. It is unknown whether the tension within the editors' office (due to the merger of TF1 news channel LCI) was the reason for the departure. Paolini denies it. A few days prior, it was reported that Axel Duroux (46), France-president of the RTL group would be the new Directeur général and hence the number two at TF1. And finally some good news from the Bolougne: The stock market responded to the appointment of the experienced manager and media man with very positive reactions: The TF1 stock rose by 7% the next morning.
Yet: Volatility is a word not easily swiped off the table in TF1's head offices. A two-line press communiqué from the 23rd of October 2009 stated: “TF1 and Axel Duroux conclude their collaboration in mutual agreement due to strategic differences regarding the company's leadership.” “TF1 looses its head”, such was the headline of L'Express. The differences with Paolini had been to severe.
And another one left, that is, had to go: Anchorman icon Patrick Poivre d'Arvor (PPDA *1947), presenter of the 8pm news for 20 years and the most famous face of the station without a doubt, if not of the whole French TV landscape, fell victim to the large-scale shift in personnel in early June 2008, after Le Lay, Mougeotte and the TF1 editor in chief Robert Namias left as well. It is not a secret that his occasionally irreverent, mocking tone displeased Nicolas Sarkozy. Of course, all of these measure had been part of a facelift campaign: Radio and TV journalist Laurence Ferrari, born in 1966 was widely considered the newest darling flame of the freshly divorced Sarkozy in 2007. She replaced the PPDA in August 2008.
The company's core is still the television station of the same name. 'La Une' generates approximately 60% of the company's revenue. The numerous activities that Patrick Le Lay had build up bit by bit are more or less additions to the TF1 core business. The diversification is supposed to reduce the dependence on the advertising market and increase control over the chain of commerce. As such, TF1 Enterprises is the marketing branch for licenses, games, music CDs and the publishing branch TF1 Publishing. TF1 Publicité is responsible for the TF1 group, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels administers and expands the (film) rights catalogue, TF1vision.com distributes cinema and TV programs on demand. TF1 Films Productions is co-producer for international cinema productions. TF1 Production on the other hand takes care of programming productions in-house (TV films and series, entertainment, documentaries, sport). E-TF1, founded in 1998, supervises the channel's activities on the Internet, mobile services and all other fields of emerging media.
Apart from further free channels NT1 (taken over the Groupe AB in 2010) and TMC (80% Monaco), the company operates several niche channels in Pay TV: LCI (100%, News), TF6 (Télévision Nouvelle Génération, 50/50 Joint Venture with M6), Série Club (50/50 Joint Venture with M6, TV-Series), TV Breizh (100%, Breton Regional-TV) and the „Pôle Découverte“ (100%, three Pay TV-channels): Stylia (former Odyssée, documentaries on l’art de vivre, l’élégance, luxe), Histoire (History), Ushuaia TV (Ecology / Sustainability).
Eurosport holds a special position within the company portfolio since it was taken over completely by TF1 in 2001. The station group (Eurosport France, Eurosport International, Eurosport 2, Eurosportnews, Eurosport Asie Pacificque) disposes of a reach of 116 million households in Europe (primarily in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden), making it the number one of all European channels, at least by its own estimation. According to the station PR, it is broadcasted in 20 languages and covers 120 athletic disciplines, most of which live. In Italy, this offer is completed through the free Sport Italia channel since 2004.
In the meantime, TF1 has parted with its 50 percent share of the worldwide, Francophone news channel France24 (the other half is owned by the public France Télévisions). France24 became part of the governmental broadcasting corporation AEF ( Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France, together with other international stations TV5 and Radio France International (RFI) and just as Sarkozy wanted it to. TF1 on the other hand gained two million Euros.
the Open Society Foundations' Media Program,
Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education,
the Rudolf Augstein Foundation,
the city of Cologne, Germany,
and the State of Thuringia, Department of Commerce.